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Am Nat. 2006 Jul;168(1):28-40. Epub 2006 May 19.

Maladaptation and mass effects in a metacommunity: consequences for species coexistence.

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  • 1School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA. mark.urban@yale.edu


Metacommunity theories predict multispecies coexistence based on the interplay between local species interactions and regional migration. To date, most metacommunity models implicitly assume that evolution can be ignored. Yet empirical studies indicate a substantial potential for contemporary evolution. I evaluate how evolution alters species diversity in a simulated mass-effects (sink-source) metacommunity. Populations inhabiting source habitats became locally adapted, while subordinate competitors became maladapted because of assumed ecological and phenotypic trade-offs between habitats. This maladaptation decreased and leveled relative abundances among subordinate populations. These two effects produced two regions of departure from nonevolutionary predictions. Assuming low proportional migration, maladaptation reduced local species richness via an overall reduction in reproductive rates in sink populations. With intermediate proportional migration, a greater absolute reduction of reproductive rates in intermediate competitors leveled reproductive rates and thereby enhanced local species richness. Although maladaptation is usually viewed as a constraint on species coexistence, simulations suggest that its effects on diversity are manifold and dependent on interpatch migration and community context. Hence, metacommunity predictions often may profit from an evolutionary perspective. Results indicate that modifications of community connectivity, such as might occur during habitat fragmentation, could elicit rapid shifts in communities from regions of high to low biodiversity.

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