Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 371262
Title Chaos in a long-term experiment with a plankton community
Author(s) Beninca, E.; Huisman, J.; Heerkloss, R.; Jöhnk, K.D.; Branco, P.; Nes, E.H. van; Scheffer, M.; Ellner, S.P.
Source Nature 451 (2008). - ISSN 0028-0836 - p. 822 - 825.
DOI https://doi.org/10.1038/nature06512
Department(s) Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management
WIMEK
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2008
Keyword(s) time-series - dynamics - cycles - phytoplankton - oscillations - models
Abstract Mathematical models predict that species interactions such as competition and predation can generate chaos1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. However, experimental demonstrations of chaos in ecology are scarce, and have been limited to simple laboratory systems with a short duration and artificial species combinations9, 10, 11, 12. Here, we present the first experimental demonstration of chaos in a long-term experiment with a complex food web. Our food web was isolated from the Baltic Sea, and consisted of bacteria, several phytoplankton species, herbivorous and predatory zooplankton species, and detritivores. The food web was cultured in a laboratory mesocosm, and sampled twice a week for more than 2,300 days. Despite constant external conditions, the species abundances showed striking fluctuations over several orders of magnitude. These fluctuations displayed a variety of different periodicities, which could be attributed to different species interactions in the food web. The population dynamics were characterized by positive Lyapunov exponents of similar magnitude for each species. Predictability was limited to a time horizon of 15¿30 days, only slightly longer than the local weather forecast. Hence, our results demonstrate that species interactions in food webs can generate chaos. This implies that stability is not required for the persistence of complex food webs, and that the long-term prediction of species abundances can be fundamentally impossible.
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