, Volume 141, Issue 2, pp 236–253

Resource pulses, species interactions, and diversity maintenance in arid and semi-arid environments


    • Section of Evolution and EcologyUniversity of California
  • Renate L. E. Gebauer
    • Department of BiologyKeene State College
  • Susan Schwinning
    • School of Natural ResourcesUniversity of Arizona
  • Nancy Huntly
    • Department of Biological SciencesIdaho State University
  • Kerstin Wiegand
    • Institute of EcologyUniversity of Jena
  • Morgan S. K. Ernest
    • Department of BiologyUniversity of New Mexico
  • Anna Sher
    • Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Denver
  • Ariel Novoplansky
    • Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Blaustein Institute for Desert ResearchBen-Gurion University of the Negev
  • Jake F. Weltzin
    • Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of Tennesee
Pulse Events and Arid Ecosystems

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-004-1551-1

Cite this article as:
Chesson, P., Gebauer, R.L.E., Schwinning, S. et al. Oecologia (2004) 141: 236. doi:10.1007/s00442-004-1551-1


Arid environments are characterized by limited and variable rainfall that supplies resources in pulses. Resource pulsing is a special form of environmental variation, and the general theory of coexistence in variable environments suggests specific mechanisms by which rainfall variability might contribute to the maintenance of high species diversity in arid ecosystems. In this review, we discuss physiological, morphological, and life-history traits that facilitate plant survival and growth in strongly water-limited variable environments, outlining how species differences in these traits may promote diversity. Our analysis emphasizes that the variability of pulsed environments does not reduce the importance of species interactions in structuring communities, but instead provides axes of ecological differentiation between species that facilitate their coexistence. Pulses of rainfall also influence higher trophic levels and entire food webs. Better understanding of how rainfall affects the diversity, species composition, and dynamics of arid environments can contribute to solving environmental problems stemming from land use and global climate change.


CoexistencePrecipitationEnvironmental variabilityStorage effectRelative nonlinearity

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© Springer-Verlag 2004