The pace of plant community change is accelerating in remnant prairies

Science Advances
Amy O AlstadDonald M Waller


Patterns of biodiversity are changing rapidly. "Legacy studies" use historical data to document changes between past and present communities, revealing long-term trends that can often be linked to particular drivers of ecological change. However, a single pair of historical samples cannot ascertain whether rates of change are consistent or whether the impact and identity of drivers have shifted. Using data from a second resurvey of 47 Wisconsin prairie remnants, we show that the pace of community change has increased with shifts in the strength of particular drivers. Annual rates of local colonization and extinction accelerated by 129 and 214%, respectively, between 1950 and 1987 and between 1987 and 2012. Two anthropogenic drivers-patch area and fire history-increased in importance between these periods. As the strength and number of anthropogenic forces increase, rates of biodiversity change are likely to accelerate in other ecosystems as well.

Associated Datasets


May 19, 2006·Ecology Letters·Marti J AndersonBrian H McArdle
Mar 29, 2007·Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America·John W WilliamsJohn E Kutzbach
Jun 11, 2009·Conservation Biology : the Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology·David A RogersDonald M Waller
Aug 12, 2009·Trends in Ecology & Evolution·Mikko KuussaariIngolf Steffan-Dewenter
Oct 27, 2010·Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America·Susan HarrisonJames B Grace
Jul 19, 2011·Science·James A EstesDavid A Wardle
May 3, 2013·Ecological Applications : a Publication of the Ecological Society of America·Marlin L Bowles, Michael D Jones
Jun 28, 2013·American Journal of Botany·Mark VellendIsla H Myers-Smith
Jan 30, 2014·Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America·Ben P WerlingDouglas A Landis

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Aug 1, 2019·Ecology Letters·Tora Finderup NielsenHans Henrik Bruun
Sep 27, 2018·Ecology and Evolution·Laura M LadwigDavid A Rogers
Jan 29, 2020·Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America·Stuart WageniusGretel Kiefer
Apr 15, 2021·Proceedings. Biological Sciences·Ke CaoJens-Christian Svenning

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