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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

General statistical scaling laws for stability in ecological systems

Clark, Adam Thomas; Arnoldi, Jean-Francois; Zelnik, Yuval R.; Barabas, Gyorgy; Hodapp, Dorothee; Karakoc, Canan; Koenig, Sara; Radchuk, Viktoriia; Donohue, Ian; Huth, Andreas; Jacquet, Claire; de Mazancourt, Claire; Mentges, Andrea; Nothaass, Dorian; Shoemaker, Lauren G.; Taubert, Franziska; Wiegand, Thorsten; Wang, Shaopeng; Chase, Jonathan M.; Loreau, Michel;
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Ecological stability refers to a family of concepts used to describe how systems of interacting species vary through time and respond to disturbances. Because observed ecological stability depends on sampling scales and environmental context, it is notoriously difficult to compare measurements across sites and systems. Here, we apply stochastic dynamical systems theory to derive general statistical scaling relationships across time, space, and ecological level of organisation for three fundamental stability aspects: resilience, resistance, and invariance. These relationships can be calibrated using random or representative samples measured at individual scales, and projected to predict average stability at other scales across a wide range of contexts. Moreover deviations between observed vs. extrapolated scaling relationships can reveal information about unobserved heterogeneity across time, space, or species. We anticipate that these methods will be useful for cross-study synthesis of stability data, extrapolating measurements to unobserved scales, and identifying underlying causes and consequences of heterogeneity.


community; disturbance; diversity; invariability; invariance; population; resilience; resistance; spatial; temporal

Published in

Ecology Letters
2021, volume: 24, number: 7, pages: 1474-1486
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Clark, Adam Thomas
University of Graz
Arnoldi, Jean-Francois
Trinity College Dublin
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)
Barabas, Gyorgy
Linkoping University
Hodapp, Dorothee
Helmholtz Inst Funct Marine Biodivers HIFMB
Karakoc, Canan
Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Koenig, Sara
Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Radchuk, Viktoriia
Leibniz Institut fur Zoo und Wildtierforschung
Donohue, Ian
Trinity College Dublin
Huth, Andreas
Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Jacquet, Claire
University of Zurich
de Mazancourt, Claire
The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)
Mentges, Andrea
Martin Luther University Halle Wittenberg
Nothaass, Dorian
Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Shoemaker, Lauren G.
University of Wyoming
Taubert, Franziska
Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Wiegand, Thorsten
Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Wang, Shaopeng
Peking University
Chase, Jonathan M.
University of Wyoming
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