Ongoing climate change is shifting the geographic distributions of some species, potentially imposing rapid changes in local community structure and ecosystem functioning. Besides changes in population-level interspecific interactions, such range shifts may also cause changes in functional structure within the host assemblages, which can result in losses or gains in ecosystem functions. Because consumer-resource dynamics are central to community regulation, functional reorganization driven by introduction of new consumer species can have large consequences on ecosystem functions. Here we experimentally examine the extent to which the recent poleward range expansion of the intertidal grazer limpet Scurria viridula along the coast of Chile has altered the role of the resident congeneric limpet S. zebrina, and whether the net collective impacts, and functional structure, of the entire herbivore guild have been modified by the introduction of this new member. We examined the functional role of Scurria species in controlling ephemeral algal cover, bare rock availability, and species richness and diversity, and compared the effects in the region of range overlap against their respective “native” abutted ranges. Experiments showed depression of per capita effects of the range-expanded species within the region of overlap, suggesting environmental conditions negatively affect individual performance. In contrast, effects of S. zebrina were commonly invariant at its range edge. When comparing single species versus polycultures, effects on bare rock cover were altered by the presence of the other Scurria species, suggesting competition between Scurria species. Importantly, although the magnitude of S. viridula effects at the range overlap was reduced, its addition to the herbivore guild seems to complement and intensify the role of the guild in reducing green algal cover, species richness and increasing bare space provision. Our study thus highlights that range expansion of an herbivore can modify the functional guild structure in the recipient community. It also highlights the complexity of predicting how functional structure may change in the face of natural or human-induced range expansions. There is a need for more field-based examination of regional functional compensation, complementarity, or inhibition before we can construct a conceptual framework to anticipate the consequences of species range expansions.
- animal–plant interaction strength
- biogeographic transition zone
- functional diversity
- functional role
- range overlap
- regional compensation