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The Nature of Communities 15 The Nature of Communities Case Study : “Killer Algae!” What Are Communities? Community Structure Interactions of Multiple Species Case Study Revisited Connections in Nature : Stopping Invasions Requires Commitment

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15 the nature of communities
15 The Nature of Communities
  • Case Study:“Killer Algae!”
  • What Are Communities?
  • Community Structure
  • Interactions of Multiple Species
  • Case Study Revisited
  • Connections in Nature: Stopping Invasions Requires Commitment
caulerpa taxifolia
Caulerpa taxifolia
  • PBS Nova special called “Deep Sea Invasion”
what are communities
What Are Communities?

Concept 15.1: Communities are groups of interacting species that occur together at the same place and time.

Interactions among multiple species give communities their character and function.

They make communities into something more than the sum of their parts.

what are communities8
What Are Communities?

Counting all the species in a community is difficult to impossible, especially if small or relatively unknown species are considered.

Ecologists usually consider a subset of species when they define and study communities.

what are communities10
What Are Communities?

Food webs allow ecologists to organize species based on their trophic or energetic interactions.

Trophic levels are groups of species that have similar ways of obtaining energy (e.g., primary producers, primary consumers).

community structure
Community Structure

Communities vary significantly in the number of species they contain.

Community structure is the set of characteristics that shape communities.

Concept 15.2: Species diversity and species composition are important descriptors of community structure.

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Community Structure

Species richness—the number of species in a community.

Species evenness—relative abundances compared with one another.

Species diversity combines species richness and species evenness.

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Community Structure

There are several quantitative species diversity indices. The one most commonly used is the Shannon index:

pi= proportion of individuals in the ith species

s = number of species in the community

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Community Structure

Species diversity (and biodiversity) is often used more broadly to mean the number of species in a community.

Biodiversity describes the diversity of important ecological entities that span multiple spatial scales, from genes to species to communities. Implicit is the interconnectedness of all components of diversity.

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Community Structure

Genetic diversity affects the viability of populations; which in turn affects species diversity within a community.

The number of different kinds of communities in an area is critical to diversity at larger regional and latitudinal scales.

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Community Structure

Species diversity indices allow ecologists to compare different communities.

Graphical representations of species diversity can give a more explicit view of commonness or rarity.

Rank abundance curves plot the proportional abundance of each species (pi) relative to the others in rank order.

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Community Structure

Species accumulation curves—species richness is plotted as a function of the total number of individuals that have been counted with each sample.

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Community Structure

Species composition—the identity of species present in the community.

Two communities could have identical species diversity values, but have completely different species.

The identity of species is critical to understanding community structure.

interactions of multiple species
Interactions of Multiple Species

In a community, multiple species interactions generate a multitude of connections.

Concept 15.3: Communities can be characterized by complex networks of direct and indirect interactions that vary in strength and direction.

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Interactions of Multiple Species

Direct interactions occur between two species (e.g., competition, predation, and facilitation).

Indirect interactions occur when the relationship between two species is mediated by a third (or more) species.

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Interactions of Multiple Species

In New England salt marshes, two plants—a sedge (Juncus gerardii), and a shrub (Iva frutescens)—have a commensalistic relationship.

When Juncus is removed, Iva growth rate decreases, but removing Iva had no effect on Juncus.

interactions of multiple species37
Interactions of Multiple Species

Interactions in trophic facilitation webs can have both positive (e.g., Juncus improves soil conditions for Iva) and negative effects (e.g., Juncus facilitates aphids that feed on Iva).

But it is the sum total of these effects that determine whether the interaction is beneficial or not.

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Interactions of Multiple Species

Dominant species (foundation species) can have a large effect on other species and species diversity by virtue of high abundance or biomass.

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Interactions of Multiple Species

Some dominant species are ecosystem engineers—they create, modify, or maintain physical habitat for themselves and other species.

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Interactions of Multiple Species

Keystone species have a strong effect because of their roles in the community.

Their effect is large in proportion to their biomass or abundance.

They usually influence community structure indirectly, via trophic means, as in the case of sea otters.

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Interactions of Multiple Species

Some keystone species are ecosystem engineers.

Example: Beavers—a few individuals can have a large impact by building dams.

Dams can transform a swiftly flowing stream into a marsh with wetland plants.

case study revisited killer algae
Case Study Revisited: “Killer Algae!”

Caulerpa acts as an ecosystem engineer, accumulating sediments around its roots more readily than Posidonia, which changes the invertebrate community.

There is also a significant drop in the numbers and sizes of fish after Caulerpa invades, suggesting the habitat is no longer suitable.