Does functional redundancy stabilize fish communities?

Jake Rice, Niels Daan, Henrik Gislason, John Pope

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Functional redundancy is a community property thought to contribute to ecosystem resilience. It is argued that trophic (or other) functional groups with more species have more linkages and opportunities to buffer variation in abundance of individual species. We explored this concept with a 30‐year time‐series of data on 83 species sampled in the International Bottom Trawl Survey. Our results were consistent with the hypothesis that functional redundancy leads to more stable (and by inference more resilient) communities. Over the time‐series trophic groups (assigned by diet, size (Lmax) group, or both factors) with more species had lower coefficients of variation (CVs) in abundance and biomass than did trophic groups with fewer species. These findings are also consistent with Bernoulli’s Law of Large Numbers, a rule that does not require complex ecological and evolutionary processes to produce the observed patterns. Through iterative randomizations of the species’ time‐series into groupings of the same size as the functional groups, we developed expected pdfs of CVs in abundances and biomasses, assuming only the Law of Large Numbers was
at work. The observed CVs of all groupings were not significantly different from these simulated distributions. These results do not prove the absence of ecological processes contributing to the greater stability of functional groups with more redundancy, however they do not justify invoking any such processes. The results support management approaches that maintain species richness, but do not require management to try to protect complex (and poorly understood) ecological processes
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2012
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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