Defining codominance in plant communities

TitleDefining codominance in plant communities
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsGray, JE, Komatsu, KJ, Smith, MD
JournalNew Phytologist
Accession NumberKNZ002048

Species dominance and biodiversity in plant communities have received considerable attention and characterisation. However, species codominance, while often alleged, is seldom defined or quantified. Codominance is a common phenomenon and is likely to be an important driver of community structure, ecosystem function and the stability of both. Here we review the use of the term ‘codominance’ and find inconsistencies in its use, suggesting that the scientific community currently lacks a universal understanding of codominance. We address this issue by: (1) qualitatively defining codominance as mostly shared abundance that is distinctively isolated within a subset of a community, and (2) presenting a novel metric for quantifying the degree to which relative abundances are shared among a codominant subset of plant species, while also accounting for the remaining species within a plant community. Using both simulated and real‐world data, we then demonstrate the process of applying the codominance metric to compare communities and to generate a quantitatively defensible subset of species to consider codominant within a community. We show that our metric effectively distinguishes the degree of codominance between four types of grassland ecosystems as well as simulated ecosystems with varying degrees of abundance sharing among community members. Overall, we make the case that increased research focusses on the conditions under which codominance occurs and the consequences for species coexistence, community structure and ecosystem function that would considerably advance the fields of community and ecosystem ecology.