Community stability and selective extinction during the Permian-Triassic mass extinction
Roopnarine et al
The fossil record contains exemplars of extreme biodiversity crises. Here, we examined the stability of terrestrial paleocommunities from South Africa during Earth's most severe mass extinction, the Permian-Triassic. We show that stability depended critically on functional diversity and patterns of guild interaction, regardless of species richness. Paleocommunities exhibited less transient instability—relative to model communities with alternative community organization—and significantly greater probabilities of being locally stable during the mass extinction. Functional patterns that have evolved during an ecosystem's history support significantly more stable communities than hypothetical alternatives.