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Extreme climatic events change the dynamics and invasibility of semi-arid annual plant communities

Authors

  • Milagros A. Jiménez,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology & Biodiversity (CASEB), Departamento de Ecología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 114-D, Santiago, Chile
    2. Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB), Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile
    3. Instituto Regional de Ciencias Ambientales, Universidad Nacional de San Agustín IRECA-UNSA, Casilla 985, Arequipa, Peru
      E-mail: mjimenez@bio.puc.cl.
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  • Fabian M. Jaksic,

    1. Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology & Biodiversity (CASEB), Departamento de Ecología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 114-D, Santiago, Chile
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  • Juan J. Armesto,

    1. Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology & Biodiversity (CASEB), Departamento de Ecología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 114-D, Santiago, Chile
    2. Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB), Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile
    3. Laboratorio Internacional de Cambio Climático, PUC, Chile-CSIC, Spain
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  • Aurora Gaxiola,

    1. Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology & Biodiversity (CASEB), Departamento de Ecología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 114-D, Santiago, Chile
    2. Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB), Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile
    3. Laboratorio Internacional de Cambio Climático, PUC, Chile-CSIC, Spain
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  • Peter L. Meserve,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115, USA
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  • Douglas A. Kelt,

    1. Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, USA
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  • Julio R. Gutiérrez

    1. Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB), Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile
    2. Departamento de Biología, Universidad de La Serena, and Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas (CEAZA), Casilla 599, La Serena, Chile
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E-mail: mjimenez@bio.puc.cl.

Abstract

Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 1227–1235

Abstract

Extreme climatic events represent disturbances that change the availability of resources. We studied their effects on annual plant assemblages in a semi-arid ecosystem in north-central Chile. We analysed 130 years of precipitation data using generalised extreme-value distribution to determine extreme events, and multivariate techniques to analyse 20 years of plant cover data of 34 native and 11 exotic species. Extreme drought resets the dynamics of the system and renders it susceptible to invasion. On the other hand, by favouring native annuals, moderately wet events change species composition and allow the community to be resilient to extreme drought. The probability of extreme drought has doubled over the last 50 years. Therefore, investigations on the interaction of climate change and biological invasions are relevant to determine the potential for future effects on the dynamics of semi-arid annual plant communities.

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