Phenological shifts can alter the relative arrival time of competing species in natural communities, but predicting the consequences for species interactions and community dynamics is a major challenge. Here we show that differences in relative arrival time can lead to predictable priority effects that alter the outcome of competitive interactions. By experimentally manipulating the relative arrival time of two competing tadpole species across a resource gradient, we found that delaying relative arrival of a species reduced the interaction asymmetry between species and could even reverse competitive dominance. However, the strength of these priority effects was contingent on the abundance of the shared resource. Priority effects were generally weak when resources were limited, but increased at higher resource levels. Importantly, this context dependency could be explained by a shift in per capita interaction strength driven by a shift in relative body sizes of competitors. These results shed new light into the mechanisms that drive variation in priority effects and help predict consequences of phenological shifts across different environments.
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We thank C. Dibble for feedback and help on all aspects of the experiments and manuscript. This work was supported by NSF DEB-1256860 and DEB-1655626 to V.H.W. Rudolf.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. All applicable institutional and national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed and approved under IACUC protocol A13101101.
Communicated by Howard Whiteman.
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Rudolf, V.H.W., McCrory, S. Resource limitation alters effects of phenological shifts on inter-specific competition. Oecologia 188, 515–523 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-018-4214-3
- Phenological shifts
- Historical contingency