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Data from: Towards a better ecological understanding of metacommunity stability: A multiscale framework to disentangle population variability and synchrony effects

Cite this dataset

Segrestin, Jules; Lepš, Jan (2022). Data from: Towards a better ecological understanding of metacommunity stability: A multiscale framework to disentangle population variability and synchrony effects [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Despite great progress in our understanding of the mechanisms governing ecosystem stability in local communities, we still lack knowledge at a larger spatial scale. Studying the stability of metacommunities requires assessing the temporal stability and synchrony of populations across space and organizational levels. Previous attempts to disentangle these effects have provided limited ecological interpretations, and conceptual improvements are needed to identify the underlying ecological processes.

2. We propose an extended framework aiming at disentangling simultaneously the relative effects of population stability and different types of synchronies on metacommunity stability. We adapted previous methods of decomposing stability into a new set of indices associated with clearer ecological hypotheses. Particularly, we provide synchrony indices that are not affected by statistical properties of the metacommunity but focus on species responses to environment, demography, and interactions. We applied this framework to a unique dataset describing the sorted biomass of individual plant populations, across 12 communities of a species-rich meadow, and for 16 years. The communities were sampled in different treatments of fertilization and dominant removal to evaluate the effect of environmental heterogeneity on stability.

3. We found higher stability at a larger spatial scale, mainly due to statistical averaging (portfolio effect). The variability of individual populations was an important determinant of the stability of the whole metacommunity. Consistent with the hypothesis of a common response to environmental conditions, we found that the fluctuations of populations were mostly synchronized (within and between species) at a large spatial scale and tended to destabilize the metacommunity. On the other hand, opposite fluctuations (anti-synchrony) between populations occurred at the local scale, probably due to local species interactions.

4. Synthesis Our framework appears as a powerful tool to test how ecological processes occurring simultaneously at different spatial and organizational scales affect the stability of metacommunities. This study advances our ecological understanding of the processes underlying the stability of species-rich environments. --


The dataset was collected on a long-term experiment led by Jan Lepš. It contains the annual biomass of plant species growing in a species-rich grassland, over the period 1999-2014. Vegetation was harvested once a year, at the peak of the growing season, in the central 0.25 m² of 12 plots representing different fertilization and dominant removal treatments. The values correspond to the measured biomasses of each species which have been sorted by hand thanks to the help of many students and volunteers over the years. More technical details of biomass sorting are described in Appendix 1 of Lepš et al. (2018) Ecology.

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For more information on the data, please contact Jan Lepš:


Czech Science Foundation, Award: GAČR 20-02901S