Spatio-temporal variation in Markov chain models of subtidal community succession


  • Editor, M. Pascual

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In this paper we ask whether succession in a rocky subtidal community varies in space and time, and if so how much affect that variation has on predictions of community dynamics and structure. We describe succession by Markov chain models based on observed frequencies of species replacements. We use loglinear analysis to detect and quantify spatio-temporal variation in the transition matrices describing succession. The analysis shows that space and time, but not their interaction, have highly significant effects on transition probabilities. To explore the ecological importance of the spatio-temporal variability detected in this analysis, we compare the equilibria and the transient dynamics among three Markov chain models: a time-averaged model that includes the effects of space on succession, a spatially averaged model that include the effects of time, and a constant matrix that averages over the effects of space and time. All three models predicted similar equilibrium composition and similar rates of convergence to equilibrium, as measured by the damping ratio or the subdominant Lyapunov exponent. The predicted equilibria from all three models were very similar to the observed community structure. Thus, although spatial and temporal variation is statistically significant, at least in this system this variation does not prevent homogeneous models from predicting community structure.