The combined effects of energy and disturbance on species richness in protist microcosms




The supply of energy, and the frequency of disturbance can both affect species diversity, often, although not always, producing unimodal diversity patterns along an energy or disturbance gradient. However, it has been suggested that diversity is a combined function of both factors, and the dynamic equilibrium model proposed by Huston (1979) is one formalization of this suggestion. This idea has received little direct testing. Here we carry out such a test using protist microcosms, in a factorial manipulation of six levels of energy (quantity of organic resource) and five levels of disturbance (frequency of temperature shock). Species richness responded to both energy supply and disturbance frequency, although not always unimodally. Patterns of response changed over time, and there was some evidence of an interaction between energy and disturbance at two of six time intervals. However, the specific form of this interaction differs from that predicted by the dynamic equilibrium model, and overall, the results provide little support for the model.