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Shifting Macroecological Patterns and Static Theory Failure in a Stressed Alpine Plant Community
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  • Juliette Franzman,
  • Micah Brush,
  • Kaito Umemura,
  • Courtenay Ray,
  • Benjamin Blonder,
  • John Harte
Juliette Franzman
University of California Berkeley
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Micah Brush
UC Berkeley
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Kaito Umemura
University of California Berkeley
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Courtenay Ray
University of California Berkeley
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Benjamin Blonder
University of California Berkeley
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John Harte
University of California
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Abstract

Accumulating evidence suggests that ecological communities undergoing change in response to either anthropogenic or natural disturbance regimes exhibit macroecological patterns that differ from those observed in similar types of communities in relatively undisturbed sites. In contrast to such cross-site comparisons, however, there are few empirical studies of shifts over time in the shapes of macroecological patterns. Here we provide a dramatic example of a plant community in which the species-area relationship and the species-abundance distribution change markedly over a period of six years. These patterns increasingly deviate from the predictions of the Maximum Entropy Theory of Ecology (METE), which successfully predicts macroecological patterns in relatively static systems. Information on the dynamic state of an ecosystem inferred from snapshot measurements of macroecological community structure can assist in extending the domain of current theories and models to disturbed ecosystems.