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Pyrodiversity promotes interaction complementarity and population resistance

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Theory predicts that network characteristics may help anticipate how populations and communities respond to extreme climatic events, but local environmental context may also influence responses to extreme events. For example, altered fire regimes in many ecosystems may significantly affect the context for how species and communities respond to changing climate. In this study, I tested whether the responses of a pollinator community to extreme drought were influenced by the surrounding diversity of fire histories (pyrodiversity) which can influence their interaction networks via changing partner availability. I found that at the community level, pyrodiverse landscapes promote functional complementarity and generalization, but did not consistently enhance functional redundancy or resistance to simulated co-extinction cascades. Pyrodiversity instead supported flexible behaviors that enable populations to resist perturbations. Specifically, pollinators that can shift partners and network niches are better able to take advantage of the heterogeneity generated by pyrodiversity, thereby buffering pollinator populations against changes in plant abundances. These findings suggest that pyrodiversity is unlikely to improve community-level resistance to droughts, but instead promotes population resistance and community functionality. This study provides unique evidence that resistance to extreme climatic events depends on both network properties and historical environmental context.

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