Disturbance alters transience but nutrients determine equilibria during grassland succession with multiple global change drivers

  • Melissa H. DeSiervo (Creator)
  • Lauren Sullivan (Michigan State University) (Creator)
  • Larissa M. Kahan (Creator)
  • Eric Seabloom (Creator)
  • Lauren Shoemaker (University of Wyoming) (Creator)



Disturbance and environmental change may cause communities to converge on a steady state, diverge towards multiple alternative states, or remain in long-term transience. Yet, empirical investigations of successional trajectories are rare, especially in systems experiencing multiple concurrent anthropogenic drivers of change. We examined succession in old field grassland communities subjected to disturbance and nitrogen fertilization using data from a long-term (22-year) experiment. Regardless of initial disturbance, after a decade communities converged on steady states largely determined by resource availability, where species turnover declined as communities approached dynamic equilibria. Species favored by the disturbance were those that eventually came to dominate the highly fertilized plots. Furthermore, disturbance made successional pathways more direct under low nutrients, revealing an important interaction effect between nutrients and disturbance as drivers of community change. Our results underscore the dynamical nature of grassland and old field succession, demonstrating how community properties such as beta-diversity change through transient and equilibrium states.
Date made availableApr 25 2023

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