Disturbance and change in biodiversity

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101 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding how disturbance affects biodiversity is important for both fundamental and applied reasons. Here, I investigate how disturbances with different ecological effects change biodiversity metrics. I define three main types of disturbance effects: D disturbance (shifts in mortality rate), B disturbance (shifts in reproductive rates) and K disturbance (shifts in carrying capacity). Numerous composite disturbances can be defined including any combination of these three types of ecological effects. The consequences of D, B and K disturbances, as well as of composite DBK disturbances are examined by comparing metrics before and after a disturbance, in disturbed and undisturbed communities. I use simulations of neutral communities and examine species richness, total abundance and species abundance distributions. The patterns of change in biodiversity metrics are consistent among different types of disturbance. K disturbance has the most severe effects, followed by D disturbance, and B disturbance has nearly negligible effects. Consequences of composite DBK disturbances are more complex than any of the three types of disturbance, with unimodal relationships along a disturbance gradient arising when D, B and K are negatively correlated. Importantly, regardless of disturbance type, community isolation enhances the negative consequences and hinders the positive effects of disturbances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3719-3727
Number of pages9
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1558
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2010


  • perturbation
  • species richness
  • neutral model
  • stress
  • threat
  • diversity
  • species abundance distributions
  • neutral theory
  • rain-forests
  • coral-reefs
  • communities
  • ecology
  • productivity
  • pollution
  • patterns


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