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Direct and higher-order interactions in plant communities under increasing weather persistence
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  • Simon Reynaert,
  • Jonas Lembrechts,
  • Hans De Boeck,
  • Chase Donnelly,
  • Lin Zi,
  • Lingjuan Li,
  • Ivan Nijs
Simon Reynaert
University of Antwerp Faculty of Sciences

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Jonas Lembrechts
University of Antwerp
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Hans De Boeck
Plant and Vegetation Ecology research group
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Chase Donnelly
University of Antwerp Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
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Lin Zi
University of Antwerp Department of Biology
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Lingjuan Li
University of Antwerp Department of Biology
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Ivan Nijs
University of Antwerp
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Climate change is increasing the weather persistence in the mid-latitudes, prolonging both dry and wet spells compared to historic averages. These newly emerging environmental conditions destabilize plant communities, but the role of species interactions in this process is unknown. Here, we tested how direct and higher-order interactions (HOIs) between species may change in synthesized grassland communities along an experimental gradient of increasing persistence in precipitation regimes. Our results indicate that species interactions (including HOIs) are an important determinant of plant performance under increasing weather persistence. Out of the 12 most parsimonious models predicting species productivity, 75 % contained significant direct interactions and 92 % significant HOIs. Inclusion of direct interactions or HOIs respectively tripled or quadrupled the explained variance of target species biomass compared to null models only including the precipitation treatment. Drought dominated the plant responses, with longer droughts increasing direct competition but also HOI-driven facilitation. Despite these counteracting changes, drought intensified net competition. Grasses were generally more involved in competitive interactions whereas legumes had a stronger affinity for facilitative interactions. Under longer drought, species affinity for nutrient rich or wet environments resulted in more negative direct interactions or HOIs, respectively. We conclude that higher-order interactions, crucially depending on species identity, only partially stabilize community dynamics under increasing weather persistence.
28 Mar 2023Submitted to Oikos
29 Mar 2023Submission Checks Completed
29 Mar 2023Assigned to Editor
29 Mar 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
03 Jul 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned
22 Oct 2023Editorial Decision: Revise Major
13 Nov 20231st Revision Received
14 Nov 2023Submission Checks Completed
14 Nov 2023Assigned to Editor
14 Nov 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
19 Nov 2023Editorial Decision: Accept