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Direct effects dominate responses to climate perturbations in grassland plant communities
- Chu, Chengjin, Kleinhesselink, Andrew R., Havstad, Kris M., McClaran, Mitchel P., Peters, Debra P., Vermeire, Lance T., Wei, Haiyan, Adler, Peter B.
- Nature Communications 2016 v.7 pp. 11766
- climate, climate change, grasslands, models, niches, plant communities
- Theory predicts that strong indirect effects of environmental change will impact communities when niche differences between competitors are small and variation in the direct effects experienced by competitors is large, but empirical tests are lacking. Here we estimate negative frequency dependence, a proxy for niche differences, and quantify the direct and indirect effects of climate change on each species. Consistent with theory, in four of five communities indirect effects are strongest for species showing weak negative frequency dependence. Indirect effects are also stronger in communities where there is greater variation in direct effects. Overall responses to climate perturbations are driven primarily by direct effects, suggesting that single species models may be adequate for forecasting the impacts of climate change in these communities.