Intermediate disturbance hypothesisn analysis

David Wilkinson described the details of the hypothesis in his paper called “The disturbing history of the intermediate disturbance”. In his paper, he had described the idea of disturbance that is associated with the species density that can be traced back to the 1940s, Eggeling in 1947, Watt in 1947, and Tansley in 1949. However, the studies supporting the hypothesis started in the 1960s, but the first concrete statements of the intermediate disturbance hypothesis did not happen till the 1970s. In the beginning, the hypothesis has been illustrated by the “hump-backed model”, which graphed the relationship among the disturbance and diversity. The hypothesis has generated concern among the marine science community due to the discrepancy with the 1976 competition model given by Menge and Sutherland. In his theory, high predation gives low disturbances and low predation gives high disturbances, which leads to competitive exclusion. Studies related to the effects of the intermediate disturbance is still going on. In one case, the tropical and dry forests are compared to know the effects of the IDN alterations as a result of different climatic conditions. Now, the studies of the intermediate disturbance hypothesis have been examined in the freshwater and marine ecosystems.


The intermediate disturbance hypothesis is used in various ecosystems for studying the lotic habitats, but this has been rarely found in the freshwater system.

The intermediate disturbance hypothesis is used to know the maximum value during the intermediate levels of certain disturbances for many dependent variables composed of species richness, food chain length, and species evenness. It is also used for studying stochastic processes, i.e., related to the flow variability that affects the actions such as rocks flipping in the stream, and in equilibrial, i.e., predator-prey competition. A typical curve is used to denote the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, which is hump shaped when the dependent variable is present in the y-axis and the disturbance range is located in the x-axis. A peak value during the intermediate disturbance can happen due to various reasons. For example, few data say that the maximum species density and food chain length at the intermediate values of the hydrologic connectivity are inside the riverscape. This could have happened as the richness of most species peaked at that intermediate values.

Supports and Criticism:
The IDH has been supported by various studies including the marine habitats, i.e., coral reefs and macroalgal communities. In the shallow coastal waters off of south-west Western Australia, research was conducted to know whether or not the extremely high diversity is observed in the macroalgal communities because of the disturbance due to wave. Using a numerical wave model to evaluate the forces happening due to waves, scientists were also able to evaluate that there was a significant relationship between the species diversity and disturbance index; this remains equivalent to the intermediate disturbance hypothesis. Meanwhile, there was less diversity at the exposed offshore sites when the disturbances from the wave are the highest and at the extremely sheltered site when the disturbance is minimal. The study also has given some proof that biodiversity in the microalgal reef communities has some relationship with their proximity to the outer edge of the lagoon systems, which is typical of the Western Australian coast. The IDH has been subjected to criticism as its inception but not the degree that other species density hypothesis has been. Criticism has been focused on the increasing amount of empirical data that disagree with the IDH. This has been seen in approximately 80% of over 100 reviewed studies that are examining the predicted peak of diversity in the intermediate disturbance levels. The disturbances weaken competition by decreasing the species density and per-capita growth rates; they also decrease the strength of competition required to push the per capita growth into the negative territory and reduce the density to zero.

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