Spatial heterogeneity of biomass turnover has contrasting effects on synchrony and stability in trophic metacommunitiesPierre Quévreux, Bart Haegeman, Michel Loreau
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Spatial heterogeneity is a fundamental feature of ecosystems, and ecologists have identified it as a factor promoting the stability of population dynamics. In particular, differences in interaction strengths and resource supply between patches generate an asymmetry of biomass turnover with a fast and a slow patch coupled by a mobile predator. Here, we demonstrate that asymmetry leads to opposite stability patterns in metacommunities receiving localized perturbations depending on the characteristics of the perturbed patch. Perturbing prey in the fast patch synchronizes the dynamics of prey biomass between the two patches and destabilizes predator dynamics by increasing the predator's temporal variability. Conversely, perturbing prey in the slow patch decreases the synchrony of the prey's dynamics and stabilizes predator dynamics. Our results have implications for conservation ecology and suggest reinforcing protection policies in fast patches to dampen the effects of perturbations and promote the stability of population dynamics at the regional scale.