SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • agronomy;
  • annual phenomena;
  • historical contingency;
  • interannual variation;
  • multiple initiation-years;
  • restoration ecology;
  • treatment by initiation-year interaction;
  • year effects

Interannual variation in experimental field conditions produce variability in the results of experiments monitored over multiple years, termed here “year effects.” When experimental treatments are replicated in separate years, interannual variation may influence treatment effects and produce significant treatment by initiation-year interactions. Understanding the frequency and strength of these effects requires initiating identical experiments across years. We conducted a review of literature covering more than 500 experimental articles published in 7 journals between 1966 and 2008. Only 5% of the 276 general ecological field studies initiated experiments in multiple years. This rarity was even more evident in the journal Restoration Ecology, in which none of the 173 surveyed experimental studies initiated experiments in multiple years. In contrast, 48% of the 58 field experiments published in an agronomy journal were replicated across years. We found only 17 studies that tested treatment by initiation-year interactions. Despite their rarity, 76% of these studies found significant interactions between treatment and initiation year. We conclude that the results of many ecological field experiments are likely to be contingent on the year in which they are implemented. We discuss the importance of treatment by initiation-year interactions in ecology and restoration, factors that have hindered the inclusion of temporal replication in the past, and some suggestions for the appropriate design and analysis of temporally replicated experiments. We argue for more deliberate investigation of temporal contingency in ecological experimentation, especially in the field of restoration ecology, which may be particularly sensitive to treatment by initiation-year interactions.