Resources from another place and time: Responses to pulses in a spatially subsidized system


As the theoretical bases for the dynamics of spatially subsidized communities emerge, ecologists question whether spatially subsidized communities exhibit similar structure or dynamics to communities that receive strongly pulsed resources. In both cases, communities may be structured by responses to resources that are potentially absent at any given point in time (pulsed communities) or space (subsidized communities), even if pulsed resources are part of the in situ productivity of the system or the subsidies arrive as a relatively constant input from a nearby system. The potential for significant spatial or temporal resource limitation, therefore, may be a key factor influencing in similar ways the persistence of populations, the structure and dynamics of communities, and the evolution of specific life history traits. In most complex systems, however, multiple resources may arrive for various trophic entities at various points in time and from various points in space, and thus it may be difficult to separate or compare the dynamics of spatially subsidized and pulsed systems. In this paper, we explore the effects of interactions between pulses and subsidies in plant and animal populations and communities on highly pulsed and variably subsidized islands in the Gulf of California. While many of the plant and animal communities on the unsubsidized islands in this system respond to pulses of rain in classic ways, responses to these rain pulses on islands subsidized by seabird guano or other marine resources are quite different and variable, and depend on a combination of life history characteristics, physiology, competitive interactions, and trophic relationships. These variable responses to rain pulses then translate into large differences in dynamics and community structure of subsidized vs. unsubsidized islands. Indeed, most systems experience both temporal pulses and spatial subsidies. When considered in tandem, complementary or synergistic effects of the multiple, temporally and spatially variable resources may emerge that help explain complex food web structure and dynamics.



Document Type





Community dynamics, Deserts, Gulf of California, Islands, Lizards, Nutrient subsidies, Plant physiology, Population dynamics, Primary productivity, Rodents, Spiders

Publication Date


Journal Title