Asynchrony in terrestrial insect abundance corresponds with species traits

Powell, Kathryn E. ORCID:; Oliver, Tom H.; González‐Suárez, Manuela; Botham, Marc S. ORCID:; Harrower, Colin A. ORCID:; Comont, Richard F.; Middlebrook, Ian; Roy, David B. ORCID: 2024 Asynchrony in terrestrial insect abundance corresponds with species traits. Ecology and Evolution, 14 (2), e10910. 12, pp.

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Asynchrony in population abundance can buffer the effects of environmental change leading to greater community and ecosystem stability. Both environmental (abiotic) drivers and species functional (biotic) traits can influence population dynamics leading to asynchrony. However, empirical evidence linking dissimilarity in species traits to abundance asynchrony is limited, especially for understudied taxa such as insects. To fill this knowledge gap, we explored the relationship between pairwise species trait dissimilarity and asynchrony in interannual abundance change between pairs of species for 422 moth, butterfly, and bumblebee species in Great Britain. We also explored patterns differentiating traits that we assumed to capture ‘sensitivity to environmental variables’ (such as body mass), and traits that may reflect ‘diversity in exposure’ to environmental conditions and lead to niche partitioning (for example, habitat uses, and intra-annual emergence periods). As expected, species trait dissimilarity calculated overall and for many individual traits representing response and exposure was positively correlated with asynchrony in all three insect groups. We found that ‘exposure’ traits, especially those relating to the phenology of species, had the strongest relationship with abundance asynchrony from all tested traits. Positive relationships were not simply due to shared evolutionary history leading to similar life-history strategies: detected effects remained significant for most traits after accounting for phylogenetic relationships within models. Our results provide empirical support that dissimilarity in traits linked to species exposure and sensitivity to the environment could be important for temporal dissimilarity in insect abundance. Hence, we suggest that general trait diversity, but especially diversity in ‘exposure’ traits, could play a significant role in the resilience of insect communities to short-term environmental perturbations through driving asynchrony between species abundances.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2045-7758
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: asynchrony, Bombus, functional traits, Lepidoptera, stability, trait diversity
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
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Date made live: 02 Feb 2024 10:28 +0 (UTC)

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