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The Royal Society Publishing

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Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences

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Biodiversity often stabilizes aggregate ecosystem properties (e.g. biomass) at small spatial scales. However, the importance of species diversity within communities and variation in species composition among communities (β-diversity) for stability at larger scales remains unclear. Using a continental-scale analysis of 1657 North American breeding-bird communities spanning 20-years and 35 ecoregions, we show local species diversity and β-diversity influence two components of regional stability: local stability (stability of bird biomass within sites) and spatial asynchrony (asynchronous fluctuations in biomass among sites). We found spatial asynchrony explained three times more variation in regional stability of bird biomass than did local stability. This result contrasts with studies at smaller spatial scales—typically plant metacommunities under 1 ha—that find local stability to be more important than spatial asynchrony. Moreover, spatial asynchrony of bird biomass increased with bird β-diversity and climate heterogeneity (temperature and precipitation), while local stability increased with species diversity. Our study reveals new insights into the scale-dependent processes regulating ecosystem stability, providing evidence that both local biodiversity loss and homogenization can destabilize ecosystem processes at biogeographic scales.


Accepted version. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences, Vol. 287, No. 1922 (March 11, 2020): 20192520. DOI. © 2020 The Author(s) published by the Royal Society. Used with permission.

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