Land use imperils plant and animal community stability through changes in asynchrony rather than diversity

Nat Commun. 2016 Feb 12:7:10697. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10697.


Human land use may detrimentally affect biodiversity, yet long-term stability of species communities is vital for maintaining ecosystem functioning. Community stability can be achieved by higher species diversity (portfolio effect), higher asynchrony across species (insurance hypothesis) and higher abundance of populations. However, the relative importance of these stabilizing pathways and whether they interact with land use in real-world ecosystems is unknown. We monitored inter-annual fluctuations of 2,671 plant, arthropod, bird and bat species in 300 sites from three regions. Arthropods show 2.0-fold and birds 3.7-fold higher community fluctuations in grasslands than in forests, suggesting a negative impact of forest conversion. Land-use intensity in forests has a negative net impact on stability of bats and in grasslands on birds. Our findings demonstrate that asynchrony across species--much more than species diversity alone--is the main driver of variation in stability across sites and requires more attention in sustainable management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropods*
  • Biodiversity*
  • Birds*
  • Chiroptera*
  • Ecosystem
  • Forests*
  • Grassland*
  • Humans
  • Natural Resources*
  • Plants*
  • Population Dynamics