|Kreyling, J; Jentsch, A; Beierkuhnlein, C: Stochastic trajectories of succession initiated by extreme climatic events, Ecology Letters, 14, 758-764 (2011)|
|Key words: EVENT 5|
Deterministic or rule-based succession is expected under homogeneous biotic and abiotic starting conditions. Effects of extreme climatic events such as drought, however, may alter these assembly rules by adding stochastic elements. We monitored the succession of species composition of 30 twin grassland communities with identical biotic and abiotic starting conditions in an initially sown diversity gradient between one and 16 species over 13 years. The stochasticity of succession, measured as the synchrony in the development of the species compositions of the twin plots, was strongly altered by the extreme warm and dry summer 2003. Moreover, it was independent from past and present plant diversity and neighborhood species compositions. Extreme climatic events can induce stochastic effects in community development and therefore impair predictability even under homogeneous abiotic conditions. Stochastic events may result in lasting shifts of community composition, as well as adverse and unforeseeable effects on the stability of ecological services.