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How pulse disturbances shape size-abundance pyramids

Abstract : Ecological pyramids represent the distribution of abundance and biomass of living organisms across body‐sizes. Our understanding of their expected shape relies on the assumption of invariant steady‐state conditions. However, most of the world’s ecosystems experience disturbances that keep them far from such a steady state. Here, using the allometric scaling between population growth rate and body‐size, we predict the response of size‐abundance pyramids within a trophic guild to any combination of disturbance frequency and intensity affecting all species in a similar way. We show that disturbances narrow the base of size‐abundance pyramids, lower their height and decrease total community biomass in a nonlinear way. An experimental test using microbial communities demonstrates that the model captures well the effect of disturbances on empirical pyramids. Overall, we demonstrate both theoretically and experimentally how disturbances that are not size‐selective can nonetheless have disproportionate impacts on large species.
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Claire Jacquet, Isabelle Gounand, Florian Altermatt. How pulse disturbances shape size-abundance pyramids. Ecology Letters, Wiley, 2020, 23 (6), pp.1014-1023. ⟨10.1111/ele.13508⟩. ⟨hal-02901284⟩

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