Linking disturbance and resources to the invasion resistance and diversity of microbial communities
Date: 18 February 2019
University of Exeter
Masters by Research in Biological Sciences.
Successful colonisations by invasive organisms are causing catastrophic changes to communities: altering their dynamics, reducing biodiversity and impeding ecosystem services. These ecological costs are only surpassed by habitat loss, and when combined with the huge associated economic costs, makes understanding how these events occur ...
Successful colonisations by invasive organisms are causing catastrophic changes to communities: altering their dynamics, reducing biodiversity and impeding ecosystem services. These ecological costs are only surpassed by habitat loss, and when combined with the huge associated economic costs, makes understanding how these events occur of growing importance. This study will focus on how disturbances, which change the availability of resources and habitat, may facilitate the establishment of novel species. First, we factorially separate resource influxes and habitat opening to test the mechanism by which disturbance increases invader success; using diversified populations of Pseudomonas fluorescens. We homogenised communities to open habitat and added nutrients to increase resources. Resource influxes were key in successful establishment, habitat opening had little affect and no interaction was found. Secondly, we expanded upon this by testing if resource abundance interacts with disturbance frequency; hypothesising when more resources are available disturbance-induced influxes, and thus invader success, would be greater. To do this communities of P. fluorescens were disturbed at different frequencies in three resource concentrations and invaded multiple times. We found disturbance and resources to interact: manipulating the mortality-growth rate balance, and thus success, of the invader. Resources also interacted with evolved biodiversity to effect invasion resistance. We finish by testing disturbance and resource effects on a stably coexisting 5-species bacterial community, using a 5x5 factorial design. Disturbance and resource both manipulated the variation in fitness between species: impacting biodiversity. Interactions were only found at high-disturbance-high-resources. This highlights the suitability of this system for future disturbance-resource studies on stably coexisting systems, including future invasion work. In conclusion, we show disturbance, through adding resources, to be a key factor in invasion success: the extent to which being strongly affected by resource abundance. We also find disturbance and resource changes are likely to impact the stability of communities.
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