Theoretical Ecology

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 57–69 | Cite as

Trait diversity promotes stability of community dynamics

  • Lai Zhang
  • Uffe Høgsbro Thygesen
  • Kim Knudsen
  • Ken Haste Andersen
Original Paper


The theoretical exploration of how diversity influences stability has traditionally been approached by species-centric methods. Here we offer an alternative approach to the diversity–stability problem by examining the stability and dynamics of size and trait distributions of individuals. The analysis is performed by comparing the properties of two size spectrum models. The first model considers all individuals as belonging to the same “average” species, i.e., without a description of diversity. The second model introduces diversity by further considering individuals by a trait, here asymptotic body size. The dynamic properties of the models are described by a stability analysis of equilibrium solutions and by the non-equilibrium dynamics. We find that the introduction of trait diversity expands the set of parameters for which the equilibrium is stable and, if the community is unstable, makes the oscillations smaller, slower, and more regular. The stabilizing mechanism is the variation in growth rate between individuals with the same body size but different trait values.


Life history Size spectra Structured population Trait-based modeling 



Ken Haste Andersen acknowledges financial support from EU FP7 project FACTS. Martin Hartvig is kindly acknowledged for helpful discussions. We greatly thank the reviewers for constructive comments on this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lai Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Uffe Høgsbro Thygesen
    • 2
  • Kim Knudsen
    • 1
  • Ken Haste Andersen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of MathematicsTechnical University of DenmarkKgs. LyngbyDenmark
  2. 2.National Institute of Aquatic ResourcesTechnical University of DenmarkCharlottenlundDenmark

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