Species reordering, not changes in richness, drives long-term dynamics in grassland communities

TitleSpecies reordering, not changes in richness, drives long-term dynamics in grassland communities
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsJones, SK, Ripplinger, J, Collins, SL
Secondary AuthorsCoulson, T
JournalEcology Letters
Start Page1556
Accession NumberKNZ001830
KeywordsCommunity dynamics, desert grassland, desert shrubland, fire; species reordering, Species richness, tallgrass prairie

Determining how ecological communities will respond to global environmental change remains a challenging research problem. Recent meta-analyses concluded that most communities are undergoing compositional change despite no net change in local species richness. We explored how species richness and composition of co-occurring plant, grasshopper, breeding bird and small mammal communities in arid and mesic grasslands changed in response to increasing aridity and fire frequency. In the arid system, grassland and shrubland plant and breeding bird communities were undergoing directional change, whereas grasshopper and small mammal communities were stable. In the mesic system, all communities were undergoing directional change regardless of fire frequency. Despite directional change in composition in some communities, species richness of all communities did not change because compositional change resulted more from reordering of species abundances than turnover in species composition. Thus, species reordering, not changes in richness, explains long-term dynamics in these grass and shrub dominated communities.