Temporal gamma-diversity meets spatial alpha-diversity in dynamically varying ecosystems

Biodiversity and Conservation
By: , and 



Community measures collected at a single instance or over a short temporal period rarely provide a complete accounting of biological diversity. The gap between such “snapshot” measures of diversity and actual diversity can be especially large in systems that undergo great temporal variation in environmental conditions. To adequately quantify diversity in these temporally varying ecosystems, individual measures of diversity collected throughout the range of environmental variation, i.e., temporal alpha-diversity measures, must be combined to obtain temporal gamma-diversity. Such a time-integrated gamma-diversity measure will be a much closer approximation of a site’s true alpha-diversity and provide a measure better comparable to spatial alpha-diversity measures of sites with lower temporal variation for which a single or a few “snapshot” measures may suffice. We used aquatic-macroinvertebrate community-composition data collected over a 24-year period from a complex of 16 prairie-pothole wetlands to explore the rate that taxa accumulate over time at sites with differing degrees of temporal variation. Our results show that the rate of taxa accumulation over time, i.e., the slope of the species–time relationship, is steeper for wetlands with ponds that frequently dry compared to those with more-permanent ponds. Additionally, we found that a logarithmic function better fit species accumulation data for seasonally ponded wetlands whereas a power function better fit accumulations for permanently and semi-permanently ponded wetlands. Thus, interpretations of ecological diversity measures, and conservation decisions that rely on these interpretations, can be biased if temporal variations in community composition are not adequately represented.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Temporal gamma-diversity meets spatial alpha-diversity in dynamically varying ecosystems
Series title Biodiversity and Conservation
DOI 10.1007/s10531-019-01756-1
Volume 28
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 15 p.
First page 1783
Last page 1797
Country United States
State North Dakota
Other Geospatial Cottonwood Lake Study Area
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