Mean species responses predict effects of environmental change on coexistence

Frederik De Laender, Camille Carpentier, Timoteo Carletti, Chuliang Song, Samantha Rumschlag, Michael Mahon, Marie Simonin, Géza Meszéna, György Barabas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Environmental change research is plagued by the curse of dimensionality: the number of communities at risk and the number of environmental drivers are both large. This raises the pressing question if a general understanding of ecological effects is achievable. Here, we show evidence that this is indeed possible. Using theoretical and simulation-based evidence for bi- and tritrophic communities, we show that environmental change effects on coexistence are proportional to mean species responses and depend on how trophic levels on average interact prior to environmental change. We then benchmark our findings using relevant cases of environmental change, showing that means of temperature optima and of species sensitivities to pollution predict concomitant effects on coexistence. Finally, we demonstrate how to apply our theory to the analysis of field data, finding support for effects of land use change on coexistence in natural invertebrate communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1535-1547
Number of pages13
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • climate change
  • community ecology
  • environmental ecology
  • environmental stressors
  • food chains
  • food webs
  • global change
  • pollution


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