Ecosystem stability at the landscape scale is primarily associated with climatic history

Hannah J. White, Willson Gaul, Lupe León‐Sánchez, Dinara Sadykova, Mark C. Emmerson, Paul Caplat, Jon M. Yearsley

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There is an increasing interest in landscape‐scale perspectives of ecosystem functioning to inform policy and conservation decisions. However, we need a better understanding of the stability of ecosystem functioning (e.g. plant productivity) at the landscape scale to inform policy around topics such as global food security. We investigate the role of the ecological and environmental context on landscape‐scale stability of plant productivity in agricultural pasture using remotely sensed enhanced vegetation index data. We determine whether four measures of stability (variability, magnitude of extreme anomalies, recovery time and recovery rate) are predicted by (a) species richness of vascular plants, (b) regional land cover heterogeneity and (c) climatic history. Stability of plant productivity was primarily associated with climatic history, particularly a history of extreme events. These effects outweighed any positive effects of species richness in the agricultural landscape. A history of variable and extreme climates both increased and decreased contemporary ecosystem stability, suggesting both cumulative and legacy effects, whereas land cover heterogeneity had no effect on stability. The landscape scale is a relevant spatial scale for the management of an ecosystem's stability. At this scale, we find that past climate is a stronger driver of stability in plant productivity than species richness, differing from results at finer field scales. Management should take an integrated approach by incorporating the environmental context of the landscape, such as its climatic history, and consider multiple components of stability to maintain functioning in landscapes that are particularly vulnerable to environmental change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFunctional Ecology
Early online date27 Oct 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 27 Oct 2021


  • Agroecology
  • Ecosystem ecology
  • Functional ecology
  • Landscape ecology
  • biodiversity
  • climate
  • ecosystem function
  • grassland
  • productivity
  • remote sensing
  • resilience
  • stability


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