Sorry, We're Closed

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Science  24 Nov 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5496, pp. 1465-1467
DOI: 10.1126/science.290.5496.1465e

Local extinctions of species from ecological communities are an inevitable result of human pressure on natural ecosystems. Given the availability of potential replacements from elsewhere, can such extinctions be reversible? Using simulated communities of different sizes and different population growth rates, Lundberg et al. show that reduced communities can sometimes become resistant to the reinvasion of species previously lost. This “community closure” effect becomes more pronounced when communities have larger initial numbers of species. Model communities with more species also suffered disproportionately from cascading extinctions, whereby failure of a lost species to reinvade can lead to extinctions of further community members. This potential for irreversibility of species loss is a further headache for restoration ecologists and conservation managers. — AMS

Ecology Letters3, 465 (2000).

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