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Diversity-disturbance relationships: frequency and intensity interact.

Abstract

An influential ecological theory, the intermediate disturbance hypothesis (IDH), predicts that intermediate levels of disturbance will maximize species diversity. Empirical studies, however, have described a wide variety of diversity-disturbance relationships (DDRs). Using experimental populations of microbes, we show that the form of the DDR depends on an interaction between disturbance frequency and intensity. We find that diversity shows a monotonically increasing, unimodal or flat relationship with disturbance, depending on the values of the disturbance aspects considered. These results confirm recent theoretical predictions, and potentially reconcile the conflicting body of empirical evidence on DDRs.

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