Functionally similar species have similar dynamics


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1. Improving the mechanistic basis of biodiversity–ecosystem function relationships requires a better understanding of how functional traits drive the dynamics of populations. For example, environmental disturbances or grazing may increase synchronization of functionally similar species, whereas functionally different species may show independent dynamics, because of different responses to the environment. Competition for resources, on the other hand, may yield a wide range of dynamic patterns among competitors and lead functionally similar and different species to display synchronized to compensatory dynamics. The mixed effect of these forces will influence the temporal fluctuations of populations and, thus, the variability of aggregate community properties.

2. To search for a relationship between functional and dynamics similarity, we studied the relationship between functional trait similarity and temporal dynamics similarity for 36 morphotypes of phytoplankton using long-term high-frequency measurements.

3. Our results show that functionally similar morphotypes exhibit dynamics that are more synchronized than those of functionally dissimilar ones. Functionally dissimilar morphotypes predominantly display independent temporal dynamics. This pattern is especially strong when short time-scales are considered.

4.  Negative correlations are present among both functionally similar and dissimilar phytoplankton morphotypes, but are rarer and weaker than positive ones over all temporal scales.

5.Synthesis. We demonstrate that diversity in functional traits decreases community variability and ecosystem-level properties by decoupling the dynamics of individual morphotypes.