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A niche-based approach for evaluating the mechanisms of community stability in butterflies
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  • Luke Evans,
  • Yolanda Melero,
  • Reto Schmucki,
  • Philipp Boersch-Supan,
  • Lluis Brotons,
  • Colin Fontaine,
  • Frederic Jiguet,
  • Mikko Kuussaari,
  • Dario Massimino,
  • Robert Robinson,
  • David Roy,
  • Oliver Schweiger,
  • Josef Settele,
  • Constanti Stefanescu,
  • Chris van Turnhout,
  • Tom Oliver
Luke Evans
University of Reading

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Yolanda Melero
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Reto Schmucki
UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
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Philipp Boersch-Supan
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Lluis Brotons
Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals (CREAF)
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Colin Fontaine
Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle
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Frederic Jiguet
Centre d'Ecologie et de Sciences de la Conservation
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Mikko Kuussaari
Finnish Environment Institute
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Dario Massimino
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Robert Robinson
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David Roy
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
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Oliver Schweiger
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
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Josef Settele
UFZ - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
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Constanti Stefanescu
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona Centre de Recerca Ecologica i Aplicacions Forestals
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Chris van Turnhout
SOVON Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology
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Tom Oliver
University of Reading
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Species niches may impact population and community stability by influencing average population sizes and species richness, however, niche-based approaches are rarely applied when studying stability in natural communities. Here we utilise a niche-based approach to link niche characteristics to community stability in 140 European butterfly communities. We represent niches as hyper-volumes and generate metrics for niche overlap, mismatch, and volume. Using structural equation modelling we then test five hypotheses linking niche and community characteristics to mechanisms influencing community stability. We find that the position of a site relative to the niches of the species pool predicts species richness, and that sites with species near the centre of their niche have higher mean abundance. We then show that niche position and size influence population stability, and species richness increases asynchrony which subsequently influences community stability. Our approach demonstrates that niches metrics are useful tools for understanding the dynamics of natural communities.