Year effects : interannual variation as a driver of community assembly dynamics
Werner, Chhaya M.; Stuble, Katharine L.; Groves, Anna M.; Young, Truman P. (2020-05-26)
Werner, C. M., Stuble, K. L., Groves, A. M., and Young, T. P.. 2020. Year effects: Inter‐annual variation as a driver of community assembly dynamics. Ecology 101( 9):e03104. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.3104
© 2020 The Authors. Ecology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Ecological Society of America. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Environmental conditions that vary from year to year can be strong drivers of ecological dynamics, including the composition of newly assembled communities. However, ecologists often chalk such dynamics up to “noise” in ecological experiments. Our lack of attention to such “year effects” hampers our understanding of contingencies in ecological assembly mechanisms and limits the generalizability of research findings. Here, we provide examples from published research demonstrating the importance of year effects during community assembly across study systems. We further quantify these year effects with two case studies—a grassland restoration experiment and a study of postfire conifer recruitment—finding that the effects of initiation year on community composition can dictate community as much, if not more, than the effects of experimental treatments or site. The evidence strongly suggests that year effects are pervasive and profound, and that year effects early in community assembly can drive strong and enduring divergence in community structure and function. Explicit attention to year effects in ecological research serves to illuminate basic ecological principles, allowing for better understanding of contingencies in ecology. These dynamics also have strong implications for applied ecological research, offering new insights into ecological restoration as well as future climate change.
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