Trophic compensation reinforces resistance: Herbivory absorbs the increasing effects of multiple disturbances

Giulia Ghedini, Bayden D. Russell, Sean D. Connell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Disturbance often results in small changes in community structure, but the probability of transitioning to contrasting states increases when multiple disturbances combine. Nevertheless, we have limited insights into the mechanisms that stabilise communities, particularly how perturbations can be absorbed without restructuring (i.e. resistance). Here, we expand the concept of compensatory dynamics to include countervailing mechanisms that absorb disturbances through trophic interactions. By definition, 'compensation' occurs if a specific disturbance stimulates a proportional countervailing response that eliminates its otherwise unchecked effect. We show that the compounding effects of disturbances from local to global scales (i.e. local canopy-loss, eutrophication, ocean acidification) increasingly promote the expansion of weedy species, but that this response is countered by a proportional increase in grazing. Finally, we explore the relatively unrecognised role of compensatory effects, which are likely to maintain the resistance of communities to disturbance more deeply than current thinking allows.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-187
Number of pages6
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Compensatory
  • Inertia
  • Stressors
  • Top-down

Cite this