, Volume 186, Issue 2, pp 507–516 | Cite as

Successional convergence in experimentally disturbed intertidal communities

  • Gustavo M. Martins
  • Francisco Arenas
  • Fernando Tuya
  • Rubén Ramírez
  • Ana I. Neto
  • Stuart R. Jenkins
Community ecology – original research


Determining the causes of variation in community assembly is a central question in ecology. Analysis of β-diversity can provide insight by relating the extent of regional to local variation in diversity, allowing inference of the relative importance of deterministic versus stochastic processes. We investigated the effects of disturbance timing on community assembly at three distinct regions with varying environmental conditions: Northern Portugal, Azores and Canaries. On the lower rocky intertidal, quadrats were experimentally cleared of biota at three distinct times of the year and community assembly followed for 1 year. Similar levels of α- and γ-diversity were found in all regions, which remained constant throughout succession. When Jaccard (incidence-based) and Bray–Curtis (abundance-based) metrics were used, β-diversity (the mean dissimilarity among plots cleared at the different times) was larger during early stages of community assembly but decreased over time. The adaptation of the Raup–Crick’s metric, which accounts for changes in species richness, showed that the structure of assemblages disturbed at different times of the year was similar to the null model of random community assembly during early stages of succession but became more similar than expected by chance. This pattern was observed in all regions despite differences in the regional species pool, suggesting that priority effects are likely weak and deterministic processes determine community structure despite stochasticity during early stages of community assembly.


Diversity β-Diversity Deterministic Stochastic Community assembly 



Funding was provided from National Funds through FCT—Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, under the project UID/BIA/00329/2013. GMM was supported by post-doctoral Grants awarded also by FCT (SFRH/BDP/63040/2009 and SFRH/BDP/108114/2015). Sampling at the Canary Islands was funded by the Spanish MINECO ‘Plan Nacional’ (ANTROTIDAL, CGL 2011-23833).

Author contribution statement

GMM, FA and SRJ conceived and designed the experiment. GMM, FA, FT, RR and AIN performed the experiment. GMM analysed the data and wrote the manuscript with contribution from FA, FT, RR, AIN and SRJ.

Supplementary material

442_2017_4022_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 kb)
442_2017_4022_MOESM2_ESM.docx (46 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 46 kb)
442_2017_4022_MOESM3_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Departamento de BiologiaUniversidade dos AçoresPonta DelgadaPortugal
  2. 2.cE3c-Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes/Azorean Biodiversity GroupPonta DelgadaPortugal
  3. 3.Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR)University of PortoMatosinhosPortugal
  4. 4.Grupo en Biodiversidad y Conservación, IU-ECOAQUAUniversidad de Las Palmas de Gran CanariaLas PalmasSpain
  5. 5.School of Ocean SciencesBangor UniversityMenai BridgeUK

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