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The contribution of intra- and interspecific tolerance variability to biodiversity changes along toxicity gradients

Authors

  • Frederik De Laender,

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology and Applied Ecology, Ghent University, Plateaustraat 22, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
    2. Research Unit of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of Namur, Rue de Bruxelles 61, 5000 Namur, Belgium
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    • Shared first authorship.
  • Carlos J. Melian,

    1. Center for Ecology, Evolution and Biogeochemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Seestrasse 79, CH6047 Kastanienbaum, Switzerland
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    • Shared first authorship.
  • Richard Bindler,

    1. Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Umeå University, SE 901 87 Umeå, Sweden
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  • Paul J. Van den Brink,

    1. Alterra, Wageningen University and Research centre, Wageningen, The Netherlands
    2. Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management, Wageningen University, Droevendaalstesteeg 4, 6708 Wageningen, The Netherlands
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  • Michiel Daam,

    1. Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Technical University of Lisbon, Avenido Professor Cavaco SIlva, 2780-990 Porto Salvo, Lisbon, Portugal
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  • Helene Roussel,

    1. Ademe, French Environment and Energy Management Agency, Avenue du Gresillé 20, BP 90406, 49004 Angers cedex, France
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  • Jonas Juselius,

    1. High Performance Computing group, Department of IT, University of Tromsø, Postbox 6050 Langnes, 9037 Tromsø, Norway
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  • Dirk Verschuren,

    1. Limnology Unit, Department of Biology, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
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  • Colin R. Janssen

    1. Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology and Applied Ecology, Ghent University, Plateaustraat 22, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
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Abstract

The worldwide distribution of toxicants is an important yet understudied driver of biodiversity, and the mechanisms relating toxicity to diversity have not been adequately explored. Here, we present a community model integrating demography, dispersal and toxicant-induced effects on reproduction driven by intraspecific and interspecific variability in toxicity tolerance. We compare model predictions to 458 species abundance distributions (SADs) observed along concentration gradients of toxicants to show that the best predictions occur when intraspecific variability is five and ten times higher than interspecific variability. At high concentrations, lower settings of intraspecific variability resulted in predictions of community extinction that were not supported by the observed SADs. Subtle but significant species losses at low concentrations were predicted only when intraspecific variability dominated over interspecific variability. Our results propose intraspecific variability as a key driver for biodiversity sustenance in ecosystems challenged by environmental change.

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