Individual species and site dynamics are the main drivers of spatial scaling of stability in aquatic communities

Dorothee Hodapp, Werner Armonies, Jennifer Dannheim, John A. Downing, Christopher T. Filstrup, Helmut Hillebrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Any measure of ecological stability scales with the spatial and temporal extent of the data on which it is based. The magnitude of stabilization effects at increasing spatial scale is determined by the degree of synchrony between local and regional species populations. Methods: We applied two recently developed approaches to quantify these stabilizing effects to time series records from three aquatic monitoring data sets differing in environmental context and organism type. Results and Discussion: We found that the amount and general patterns of stabilization with increasing spatial scale only varied slightly across the investigated species groups and systems. In all three data sets, the relative contribution of stabilizing effects via asynchronous dynamics across space was higher than compensatory dynamics due to differences in biomass fluctuations across species and populations. When relating the stabilizing effects of individual species and sites to species and site-specific characteristics as well as community composition and aspects of spatial biomass distribution patterns, however, we found that the effects of single species and sites showed large differences and were highly context dependent, i.e., dominant species can but did not necessarily have highly stabilizing or destabilizing effects on overall community biomass. The sign and magnitude of individual contributions depended on community structure and the spatial distribution of biomass and species in space. Our study therefore provides new insights into the mechanistic understanding of ecological stability patterns across scales in natural species communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number864534
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
DH and HH acknowledge funding by HIFMB, a collaboration between the Alfred-Wegener-Institute, Helmholtz-Center for Polar and Marine Research, and the Carl-von-Ossietzky University Oldenburg, initially funded by the Ministry for Science and Culture of Lower Saxony (MWK) and the Volkswagen Foundation through the “Niedersächsisches Vorab” grant program (grant number ZN3285). HH was funded by German Science Foundation (DFG HI 848 26-2). JDa acknowledges funding by the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (grant no.: 10047583).

Funding Information:
JDo and CF gratefully acknowledge long-term support from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for the collection of phytoplankton and zooplankton data.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Hodapp, Armonies, Dannheim, Downing, Filstrup and Hillebrand.


  • ecological scale
  • ecological stability
  • insurance effect
  • invariability-area relationship
  • spatial scale
  • synchrony


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