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Title: Comparisons of Late Ordovician ecosystem dynamics before and after the Richmondian invasion reveal consequences of invasive species in benthic marine paleocommunities
A thorough understanding of how communities respond to extreme changes, such as biotic invasions, is essential to manage ecosystems today. Here we constructed fossil food webs to identify changes in Late Ordovician (Katian) shallow-marine paleocommunity structure and functioning before and after the Richmondian invasion, a well-documented ancient invasion. Food webs were compared using descriptive metrics and cascading extinction on graphs models. Richness at intermediate trophic levels was underrepresented when using only data from the Paleobiology Database relative to museum collections, resulting in a spurious decrease in modeled paleocommunity stability. Therefore, museum collections and field sampling may provide more reliable sources of data for the reconstruction of trophic organization in comparison to online data repositories. The invasion resulted in several changes in ecosystem dynamics. Despite topological similarities between pre- and postinvasion food webs, species loss occurred corresponding to a minor decrease in functional groups. Invaders occupied all of the preinvasion functional guilds, with the exception of four incumbent guilds that were lost and one new guild, corroborating the notion that invaders replace incumbents and fill preexisting niche space. Overall, models exhibited strong resistance to secondary extinction, although the postinvasion community had a lower threshold of collapse and more variable response to perturbation. We interpret these changes in dynamics as a decrease in stability, despite similarities in overall structure. Changes in food web structure and functioning resulting from the invasion suggest that conservation efforts may need to focus on preserving functional diversity if more diverse ecosystems are not inherently more stable.  more » « less
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