Extreme temperature events alter demographic rates, relative fitness, and community structure

Authors

  • Gang Ma,

    1. Climate Change Biology Research Group, State Key Laboratory for Biology of Plant Diseases and Insect Pests, Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China
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  • Volker H. W. Rudolf,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA
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  • Chun-sen Ma

    Corresponding author
    1. Climate Change Biology Research Group, State Key Laboratory for Biology of Plant Diseases and Insect Pests, Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China
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Abstract

The frequency and magnitude of extreme events are predicted to increase under future climate change. Despite recent advancements, we still lack a detailed understanding of how changes in the frequency and amplitude of extreme climate events are linked to the temporal and spatial structure of natural communities. To answer this question, we used a combination of laboratory experiments, field experiments, and analysis of multi-year field observations to reveal the effects of extreme high temperature events on the demographic rates and relative dominance of three co-occurrence aphid species which differ in their transmission efficiency of different agricultural pathogens. We then linked the geographical shift in their relative dominance to frequent extreme high temperatures through a meta-analysis. We found that both frequency and amplitude of extreme high temperatures altered demographic rates of species. However, these effects were species-specific. Increasing the frequency and amplitude of extreme temperature events altered which species had the highest fitness. Importantly, this change in relative fitness of species was consistent with significant changes in the relative dominance of species in natural communities in a 1 year long field heating experiment and 6 year long field survey of natural populations. Finally, at a global spatial scale, we found the same relationship between relative abundance of species and frequency of extreme temperatures. Together, our results indicate that changes in frequency and amplitude of extreme high temperatures can alter the temporal and spatial structure of natural communities, and that these changes are driven by asymmetric effects of high temperatures on the demographic rates and fitness of species. They also highlight the importance of understanding how extreme events affect the life-history of species for predicting the impacts of climate change at the individual and community level, and emphasize the importance of using a broad range of approaches when studying climate change.

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