Special Reviews

Complex Species Interactions and the Dynamics of Ecological Systems: Long-Term Experiments

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Science  27 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5530, pp. 643-650
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5530.643

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Studies that combine experimental manipulations with long-term data collection reveal elaborate interactions among species that affect the structure and dynamics of ecosystems. Research programs in U.S. desert shrubland and pinyon-juniper woodland have shown that (i) complex dynamics of species populations reflect interactions with other organisms and fluctuating climate; (ii) genotype x environment interactions affect responses of species to environmental change; (iii) herbivore-resistance traits of dominant plant species and impacts of “keystone” animal species cascade through the system to affect many organisms and ecosystem processes; and (iv) some environmental perturbations can cause wholesale reorganization of ecosystems because they exceed the ecological tolerances of dominant or keystone species, whereas other changes may be buffered because of the compensatory dynamics of complementary species.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: jhbrown{at}unm.edu

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