Shoemaker LG, Hallett LM, Zhao L, Reuman DC, Wang S, Cottingham KL, Hobbs RJ, Castorani MC, Downing AL, Dudney JC, Fey SB (2022) The long and the short of it: Mechanisms of synchronous and compensatory dynamics across temporal scales. Ecology. 2022 Apr;103(4):e3650.
Synchronous dynamics (fluctuations that occur in unison) are universal phenomena with widespread implications for ecological stability. Synchronous dynamics can amplify the destabilizing effect of environmental variability on ecosystem functions such as productivity, whereas the inverse, compensatory dynamics, can stabilize function. Here we combine simulation and empirical analyses to elucidate mechanisms that underlie patterns of synchronous versus compensatory dynamics. In both simulated and empirical communities, we show that synchronous and compensatory dynamics are not mutually exclusive but instead can vary by timescale. Our simulations identify multiple mechanisms that can generate timescale-specific patterns, including different environmental drivers, diverse life histories, dispersal, and non-stationary dynamics. We find that traditional metrics for quantifying synchronous dynamics are often biased toward long-term drivers and may miss the importance of short-term drivers. Our findings indicate key mechanisms to consider when assessing synchronous versus compensatory dynamics and our approach provides a pathway for disentangling these dynamics in natural systems. [link to publication]