Predictability of ecosystem engineering effects on species richness across environmental variability and spatial scales
1 The effect of physical ecosystem engineering - structurally mediated modification of the abiotic environment by organisms - on species richness and composition probably depends on the area of observation and environmental context. 2 We develop specific hypotheses to evaluate how such effects will vary with spatial scale and environmental variability, and test these hypotheses by examining the effects of shrub mounds on the diversity of annual plant communities in the Negev Desert, Israel. 3 We find that previously reported increases in species richness at small spatial scales as a result of shrub mounds are maintained at large spatial scales because shrub mounds host a number of species never found in adjacent crust patches. 4 We find that the magnitude of this effect is dependent on annual precipitation, with shrub mounds having a smaller effect in years with higher precipitation. 5 The results generally support our hypotheses. Given the ubiquity of ecosystem engineering, these results have the potential to explain variation in patterns of ecosystem engineer-induced diversity across ecosystems and environmental gradients. In general, understanding the interactions between resources modified by an ecosystem engineer and the availability of these resources in unmodified habitats aids prediction of the magnitude of the effects of an ecosystem engineer on diversity. © 2006 British Ecological Society.
Wright, JP; Jones, CG; Boeken, B; Shachak, M
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