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Sensitivity and Elasticity Analysis at the Community Level

It is predicted that human caused disturbances on ecological communities will cause major changes in species abundances and species composition in both terrestrial and aquatic environments in the near future.

One approach to understand how ecological communities respond to a change in their environment is to apply sensitivity analysis on community level. Such an analysis would illustrate how the stability of an ecosystem (i.e. resilience (the potential to return to equilibrium state after a temporary perturbation) and resistance (the reciprocal to the degree of change in species equilibrium abundances after a temporary perturbation))) is affected when there is a change in some important variable of some species.

Here, we specifically study the effect on ecosystem stability to small changes in species intrinsic growth rate or mortality rate and in the interaction strengths within and between species. This method allows us to identify keystone species and keystone links in ecological communities. The figure illustrates which species and which interaction strengths between species that will affect community stability most when perturbed (increasing effect from green to red nodes (i.e. different species) and from thin to thick lines (i.e. interaction strengths)).

Sofia Berg, Tomas Jonsson & Bo Ebenman

Responsible for this page: Alva Curtsdotter

Last updated: 02/18/11