University of Oulu

Werner, C. M., Stuble, K. L., Groves, A. M., and Young, T. P.. 2020. Year effects: Inter‐annual variation as a driver of community assembly dynamics. Ecology 101( 9):e03104.

Year effects : interannual variation as a driver of community assembly dynamics

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Author: Werner, Chhaya M.1,2,3; Stuble, Katharine L.4; Groves, Anna M.5,6;
Organizations: 1Department of Physiological Diversity, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ), D‐04318 Leipzig, Germany
2German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle‐Jena‐Leipzig, D‐04103 Leipzig, Germany
3Department of Ecology, University of Oulu, FI‐90014 Oulu, Finland
4The Holden Arboretum, Kirtland, Ohio, 44094 USA
5Department of Plant Biology, Program in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 48824 USA
6Discover Magazine, Kalmbach Media, Waukesha, Wisconsin, 53186 USA
7Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, California, 95616 USA
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-10-29


Environmental conditions that vary from year to year can be strong drivers of ecological dynamics, including the composition of newly assembled communities. However, ecologists often chalk such dynamics up to “noise” in ecological experiments. Our lack of attention to such “year effects” hampers our understanding of contingencies in ecological assembly mechanisms and limits the generalizability of research findings. Here, we provide examples from published research demonstrating the importance of year effects during community assembly across study systems. We further quantify these year effects with two case studies—a grassland restoration experiment and a study of postfire conifer recruitment—finding that the effects of initiation year on community composition can dictate community as much, if not more, than the effects of experimental treatments or site. The evidence strongly suggests that year effects are pervasive and profound, and that year effects early in community assembly can drive strong and enduring divergence in community structure and function. Explicit attention to year effects in ecological research serves to illuminate basic ecological principles, allowing for better understanding of contingencies in ecology. These dynamics also have strong implications for applied ecological research, offering new insights into ecological restoration as well as future climate change.

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Series: Ecology
ISSN: 0012-9658
ISSN-E: 1939-9170
ISSN-L: 0012-9658
Volume: 101
Issue: 9
Article number: e03104
DOI: 10.1002/ecy.3104
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (DEB 10‐50543 and LTREB 12‐56034).
Copyright information: © 2020 The Authors. Ecology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Ecological Society of America. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.