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Ecological resilience and resistance to extreme weather events - review data

Cite this dataset

Neilson, Eric (2021). Ecological resilience and resistance to extreme weather events - review data [Dataset]. Dryad.


Extreme weather events (EWEs) are expected to increase in stochasticity, frequency, and intensity due to climate change. Documented effects of EWEs, such as droughts, hurricanes, and temperature extremes, range from shifting community stable states to species extirpations. To date, little attention has been paid to how populations resist and/or recover from EWEs through compensatory (behavioural, demographic or physiological) mechanisms; limiting the capacity to predict species responses to future changes in EWEs. Here, we systematically reviewed the global variation in species’ demographic responses, resistance to, and recovery from EWEs across weather types, species, and biogeographic regions. Through a literature review and meta-analysis, we tested the prediction that population abundance and probability of persistence will decrease in populations after an EWE and how compensation affects that probability. Across 524 species population responses to EWEs reviewed (27 articles), we noted large variation in responses, such that, on average, the effect of EWEs on population demographics was not negative as predicted. The majority of species populations (80.4%) demonstrated compensatory mechanisms during events to reduce their deleterious effects. However, for populations that were negatively impacted, the demographic consequences were severe. Nearly 20% of the populations monitored experienced declines of over 50% after an EWE, and 6.8% of populations were extirpated. Population declines were reflected in a reduction in survival. Further, resilience was not common, as 80.0% of populations that declined did not recover to before EWE levels while monitored. However, average monitoring time was only two years with over a quarter of studies tracking recovery for less than the study species generation time. We conclude that EWEs have positive and negative impacts on species demography, and this varies by taxa. Species population recovery over short time intervals is rare, but long-term studies are required to accurately assess species resilience to current and future events.


We queried the Web of Science on October 16, 2017 using the search terms “extreme weather event” and “species” and on January 21, 2018 for search terms “extreme weather event” and “populations”. Additionally, we queried Scopus on January 21, 2018 using the same search terms. Whereas we did not conduct an exhaustive search, we consider our search terms to be unbiased and representative of the literature. These searches resulted in 336 peer-reviewed, scientific articles between 1992 and 2017.

Usage notes

The 'Abund_add' file is a subset of the main data, subset to those records with EWE ~abundance effects then joined to body size and female age of maturity metrics.