Partitioning the impact of environmental drivers and species interactions in dynamic aquatic communities

Kees Musters, Oleksandra Ieromina, Henrik Barmentlo, Ellard Hunting, Maarten Schrama, Ellen Cieraad, Martina G. Vijver, Peter M. Van Bodegom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Temperate aquatic communities are highly diverse and seasonally variable, due to internal biotic processes and environmental drivers, including human‐induced stressors. The impact of drivers on species abundance is supposed to differ fundamentally depending on whether populations are experiencing limitations, which may shift over the season. However, an integrated understanding of how drivers structure communities seasonally is currently lacking. In order to partition the effect of drivers, we used random forests to quantify interactions between all taxa and environmental factors using macrofaunal data from 18 agricultural ditches sampled over two years. We found that, over the agricultural season, taxon abundance became increasingly better predicted by the abundances of co‐occurring taxa and nutrients compared to other abiotic factors, including pesticides. Our approach provides fundamental insights in community dynamics and highlights the need to consider changes in species interactions to understand the effects of anthropogenic stressors.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02910
Number of pages17
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2019


  • abiotic
  • anthropogenic stressors
  • biotic
  • bottom‐up
  • random forest
  • seasonal change
  • trophic level

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