Life history trade-off moderates model predictions of diversity loss from climate change
by Helen MoorClimate change can trigger species range shifts, local extinctions and changes in diversity. Species interactions and dispersal capacity are important mediators of community responses to climate change. The interaction between multispecies competition and variation in dispersal capacity has recently been shown to exacerbate the effects of climate change on diversity and to increase predictions of extinction risk dramatically. Dispersal capacity, however, is part of a species’ overall ecological strategy and are likely to trade off with other aspects of its life history that influence population growth and persistence. In plants, a well-known example is the trade-off between seed mass and seed number. The presence of such a trade-off might buffer the diversity loss predicted by models with random but neutral (i.e. not impacting fitness otherwise) differences in dispersal capacity. Using a trait-based metacommunity model along a warming climatic gradient the effect of three different dispersal scenarios on model predictions of diversity change were compared. Adding random variation in species dispersal capacity caused extinctions by the introduction of strong fitness differences due an inherent property of the dispersal kernel. Simulations including a fitness-equalising trade-off based on empirical relationships between seed mass (here affecting dispersal distance, establishment probability, and seedling biomass) and seed number (fecundity) maintained higher initial species diversity and predicted lower extinction risk and diversity loss during climate change than simulations with variable dispersal capacity. Large seeded species persisted during climate change, but developed lags behind their climate niche that may cause extinction debts. Small seeded species were more extinction-prone during climate change but tracked their niches through dispersal and colonisation, despite competitive resistance from residents. Life history trade-offs involved in coexistence mechanisms may increase community resilience to future climate change and are useful guides for model development.
Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article
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