Illuminating the intrinsic and extrinsic drivers of ecological stability across scales

Samuel R. P.-J. Ross, Yuka Suzuki, Michio Kondoh, Kenta Suzuki, Paula Villa Martín, Maria Dornelas

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Our knowledge of ecological stability is built on assumptions of scale. These assumptions limit our ability to reach a generalizable and mechanistic understanding of stability under global environmental change. Moving towards a multiscale approach—across space, time and environment—will allow us to better understand the intrinsic (e.g., demographic) and extrinsic (environmental) drivers of ecological stability. In this perspective, we review multiple sources of variation responsible for shaping ecological dynamics, and how scale affects our observation of these dynamics through its confounding effect on drivers of variation in ecosystems. We discuss the effect of temporal scale when combining empirical dynamic modeling with high‐resolution population time series to consider the time‐varying nature of multispecies interaction networks, highlighting interspecific interactions as an intrinsic driver of community dynamics. Next, we examine energy landscape analysis as a method for inferring stability and transience during community assembly and its interaction with spatial scale, emphasizing the intrinsic role of compositional variability in assembly dynamics. We then examine population dynamics at species' range margins and show how considering the interaction between spatial and temporal environmental heterogeneity, an extrinsic driver of population dynamics, can facilitate a nuanced understanding of population expansions, range shifts, and species invasions. Finally, we discuss broadly how the sources of intrinsic and extrinsic variation interact with each other and with spatiotemporal scale to shape ecological dynamics. Better recognition of the scale‐dependent nature of the relationship between drivers of variation and ecological dynamics will be invaluable to illuminate the dynamics influencing ecological stability across scales.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAdvances in Ecological Research
VolumeEarly View
Early online date28 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Feb 2021


  • Community dynamics
  • Empirical dynamic modeling
  • Energy landscape analysis
  • Metacommunity
  • Time series


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