Predictability in community dynamics

Benjamin Blonder, Derek E. Moulton, Jessica Blois, Brian J. Enquist, Bente J. Graae, Marc Macias-Fauria, Brian McGill, Sandra Nogué, Alejandro Ordonez, Brody Sandel, Jens Christian Svenning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


The coupling between community composition and climate change spans a gradient from no lags to strong lags. The no-lag hypothesis is the foundation of many ecophysiological models, correlative species distribution modelling and climate reconstruction approaches. Simple lag hypotheses have become prominent in disequilibrium ecology, proposing that communities track climate change following a fixed function or with a time delay. However, more complex dynamics are possible and may lead to memory effects and alternate unstable states. We develop graphical and analytic methods for assessing these scenarios and show that these dynamics can appear in even simple models. The overall implications are that (1) complex community dynamics may be common and (2) detailed knowledge of past climate change and community states will often be necessary yet sometimes insufficient to make predictions of a community's future state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-306
Number of pages14
JournalEcology letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Alternate states
  • chaos
  • climate change
  • community assembly
  • community climate
  • community response diagram
  • disequilibrium
  • hysteresis
  • lag
  • memory effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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