Small rainfall changes drive substantial changes in plant coexistence

Mary N. Van Dyke, Jonathan M. Levine, Nathan J.B. Kraft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Although precipitation patterns have long been known to shape plant distributions1, the effect of changing climate on the interactions of species and therefore community composition is far less understood2,3. Here, we explored how changes in precipitation alter competitive dynamics via direct effects on individual species, as well as by the changing strength of competitive interactions between species, using an annual grassland community in California. We grew plants under ambient and reduced precipitation in the field to parameterize a competition model4 with which we quantified the stabilizing niche and fitness differences that determine species coexistence in each rainfall regime. We show that reduced precipitation had little direct effect on species grown alone, but it qualitatively shifted predicted competitive outcomes for 10 of 15 species pairs. In addition, species pairs that were functionally more similar were less likely to experience altered outcomes, indicating that functionally diverse communities may be most threatened by changing interactions. Our results highlight how important it is to account for changes to species interactions when predicting species and community response to global change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-511
Number of pages5
Issue number7936
StatePublished - Nov 17 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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