Landscape configuration has been shown to impact a community’s resilience to disturbance and alter recovery speeds and trajectories. Connectivity, in particular, has long been acknowledged as a positive driver of community recovery post-disturbance. However, the separate roles that connectivity plays in resilience, recovery, or even resistance, are difficult to disentangle. Natural microcosms offer complex community dynamics on a scale easily manipulated for experimentally pulling apart each stage of community response to disturbance. We used moss-microarthropod communities to investigate the impact of connectivity in resistance to disturbance, recovery after disturbance, and resilience across a gradient of disturbance. We focused on heating and drying, a natural event in these systems, and measured immediate response of communities as well as recovery dynamics through time.
We found that each stage of response – resistance, resilience, and recovery – shifted uniquely based on landscape connectivity. We found that connectivity to an equally disturbed landscape boosted resistance of communities. Additionally, recovery was linear and rapid in communities connected to undisturbed landscapes, hump shaped when connected to equally disturbed landscapes, and almost flat in isolated communities. We did not find thresholds on the disturbance gradient that pushed communities into alternative states, so were unable to draw conclusions on the role of connectivity in ecological resilience. Ultimately, isolated communities exhibited less predictability and stalled recovery patterns to control trajectories when compared to connected treatments.