Document Type


Publication Date



© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Aim: Ecological communities are composed of both species and the biotic relationships (interactions or spatial associations) among them. Biotic homogenization in species composition (i.e., increased site-to-site similarity) is recognized as a common consequence of global change, but less is known about how the similarity of species relationships changes over space and time. Does homogenization of species composition lead to homogenization of species relationships or are the dynamics of species relationships decoupled from changes in species composition?. Location: Wisconsin, USA. Time period: 1950–2012. Major taxa studied: Vascular plants. Methods: We used long-term resurvey data to analyse changes in plant species association patterns between the 1950s and 2000s at 266 sites distributed among three community types in Wisconsin, USA. We used species associations (quantified via local co-occurrence patterns) to represent one type of relationship among species. Species pairs that co-occur more or less than expected by chance have positive or negative associations, respectively. We then measured beta diversity in both species composition and species association networks over time and space. Results: Shifts in species associations consistently exceeded the shifts observed in species composition. Less disturbed forests of northern Wisconsin have converged somewhat in species composition but little in species associations. In contrast, forests in central Wisconsin succeeding from pine barrens to closed-canopy forests have strongly homogenized in both species composition and species associations. More fragmented forests in southern Wisconsin also tended to converge in species composition and in the species’ negative associations, but their positive associations diverged over the last half century. Species composition and associations are generally affected by a similar set of environmental variables. Their relative importance, however, has changed over time. Main conclusions: Long-term shifts in species relationships appear to be decoupled from shifts in species composition despite being affected by similar environmental variables.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Global Ecology and Biogeography

First Page


Last Page