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Impacts of altered disturbance regimes on community structure and biodiversity mediated by fecundity–tolerance interactions

Abstract

We present an investigation of the effects of disturbance and fecundity–tolerance strategies on community composition. We develop a theoretical model and apply it to macrofaunal communities at deep‐sea hydrothermal vents. We characterize community outcomes and find that dominance, coexistence, and alternative stable equilibria can all result from the interplay of disturbance regimes and fecundity–tolerance interactions. We show that fecundity–tolerance trade‐offs can permit coexistence under disturbance, but a strict fecundity–tolerance trade‐off is not required for coexistence to arise. We further describe how coexistence depends on habitat availability and disturbance regimes. Generally, our model elaborates on fecundity–tolerance strategies as a new axis of trait variation in coexistence theory. Natural disturbance regimes vary considerably across regions, and anthropogenic disturbance to vent communities will escalate with the advent of deep‐sea mineral extraction. We demonstrate how anthropogenic changes to disturbance regimes may impact species diversity, pushing communities over thresholds leading to local species extinction.

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