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Ecology. 2006 Jun;87(6):1523-31.

In search of quorum effects in metacommunity structure: species co-occurrence analyses.

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  • Department of Biology, University of Central Florida, Orlando 32816-2368, USA. dgjenkin@mail.ucf.edu


Alternative models of community assembly emphasize regional, stochastic, dispersal-based processes or local, deterministic, niche-based processes. Community ecology's historical focus on local processes implicitly assumes that local processes surpass regional processes over time or across space to derive nonrandom metacommunity structure (i.e., a quorum effect). Quorum effects are expected late in succession among nearby sites, whereas quorum effects are not expected early in succession among distant sites. I conducted a meta-analysis of zooplankton data sets encompassing time scales of one to thousands of years and spatial scales of <1 m to thousands of kilometers. Species co-occurrence analyses statistically evaluated presence/absence patterns relative to random patterns obtained with Monte Carlo null models. A series of weighted analyses was conducted and alternative randomization algorithms and null models were evaluated. Most zooplankton metacommunities were randomly structured in unweighted analyses, and the distribution of significant structure did not follow quorum effect predictions. Weighted analyses (e.g., by habitat area) revealed significant, nonrandom structure in most zooplankton metacommunities, but the distribution of significant structure still did not adhere well to quorum effect predictions. Finally, additional weighting for study scale (number of sites) nullified most significant area-weighted structure, and again, the distribution of significant structure did not follow quorum effect predictions. Overall, a quorum effect was not supported, perhaps related to zooplankton life histories and energetics and/or the quorum effect itself. Results at the presence/absence level of resolution indicated that local processes did not generally override regional processes over time or across space to drive community structure. A full integration of dispersal- and niche-based concepts in metacommunity dynamics will be most fruitful for unraveling community assembly. Species co-occurrence analyses were scale dependent (habitat area and study size). Future analyses should use weights for important factors (e.g., habitat area), and meta-analyses should include study scale as an additional factor contributing to apparent patterns.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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