Biotic interactions are an unexpected yet critical control on the complexity of an abiotically driven polar ecosystem.
Lee, Charles K.; Laughlin, Daniel C.; Bottos, Eric M.; Caruso, Tancredi; Joy, Kurt; Barrett, John E.; Brabyn, Lars; Nielsen, Uffe N.; Adams, Byron J.; Wall, Diana H.; Hopkins, David W.; Pointing, Stephen B.; McDonald, Ian R.; Cowan, Don A.; Banks, Jonathan C.; Stichbury, Glen A.; Jones, Irfon; Zawar-Reza, Peyman; Katurji, Marwan; Hogg, Ian D.; Sparrow, Ashley D.; Storey, Bryan C.; Green, T.G. Allan; Cary, S. Craig
Lee, C. K., Laughlin, D. C., Bottos, E. M., Caruso, T., Joy, K., Barrett, J. E., … Cary, S. C. (2019). Biotic interactions are an unexpected yet critical control on the complexity of an abiotically driven polar ecosystem. Communications Biology, 2, 62. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-018-0274-5
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12558
Abiotic and biotic factors control ecosystem biodiversity, but their relative contributions remain unclear. The ultraoligotrophic ecosystem of the Antarctic Dry Valleys, a simple yet highly heterogeneous ecosystem, is a natural laboratory well-suited for resolving the abiotic and biotic controls of community structure. We undertook a multidisciplinary investigation to capture ecologically relevant biotic and abiotic attributes of more than 500 sites in the Dry Valleys, encompassing observed landscape heterogeneities across more than 200 km². Using richness of autotrophic and heterotrophic taxa as a proxy for functional complexity, we linked measured variables in a parsimonious yet comprehensive structural equation model that explained significant variations in biological complexity and identified landscape-scale and fine-scale abiotic factors as the primary drivers of diversity. However, the inclusion of linkages among functional groups was essential for constructing the best-fitting model. Our findings support the notion that biotic interactions make crucial contributions even in an extremely simple ecosystem.
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