Rare but important: perturbations to uncommon species have disproportionately large impact on ecological communities
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
The majority of species in the ecosystems of the world are rare. Because the contributions to community biomass and productivity of many of these species are small it has been suggested that loss of rare species should have relatively small ecological consequences. However, the extent to which rare species affect the structure and stability of ecosystems is largely unknown. Using a theoretical approach, based on analytical methods, we here investigate how perturbations to rare as well as common species affect the structure (distribution of equilibrium abundances of species) and resilience (recovery rate) of complex ecological communities. We show that, contrary to expectation, resilience and structure of ecological communities are generally more sensitive to perturbations to rare than to common species. We find the explanation for this to lie in the cause of rarity: rare species tend to interact strongly, on a per capita basis, with other species. Our results suggest that many rare species are likely to fill important ecological roles in ecosystems.
Community sensitivity analysis, species abundance, species importance, food webs, stability, resilience
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-88048OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-88048DiVA: diva2:601412