Structural stability as a consistent predictor of phenological events


The timing of the first and last seasonal appearance of a species in a community typically follows a pattern that is governed by temporal factors. While it has been shown that changes in the environment are linked to phenological changes, the direction of this link appears elusive and context-dependent. Thus, finding consistent predictors of phenological events is of central importance for a better assessment of expected changes in the temporal dynamics of ecological communities. Here we introduce a measure of structural stability derived from species interaction networks as an estimator of the expected range of environmental conditions compatible with the existence of a community. We test this measure as a predictor of changes in species richness recorded on a daily basis in a high-arctic plant–pollinator community during two spring seasons. We find that our measure of structural stability is the only consistent predictor of changes in species richness among different ecological and environmental variables. Our findings suggest that measures based on the notion of structural stability can synthesize the expected variation of environmental conditions tolerated by a community, and explain more consistently the phenological changes observed in ecological communities.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B
Chuliang Song
Chuliang Song

I am a theoretical ecologist driven by the curiosity of how biodiversity is generated and maintained.

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