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Ecology. 2006 Jul;87(7):1616-26.

Evolving metacommunities: toward an evolutionary perspective on metacommunities.

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  • 1Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, 370 Prospect Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511, USA.


The metacommunity framework predicts that local coexistence depends on the outcome of local species interactions and regional migration. In analogous fashion, spatial structure among populations can shape species interactions through evolutionary mechanisms. Yet, most metacommunity theories assume that populations do not evolve. Here, we evaluate how evolution shapes local species coexistence and exclusion within the multiscale and multispecies context embodied by the metacommunity framework. In general, coexistence in joint ecological-evolutionary models requires low to intermediate dispersal rates that can promote maintenance of both regional species and genetic diversity. These conditions support a set of key mechanisms that modify patterns of species coexistence including local adaptation, gene storage effects, genetic rescue effects, spatial genetic subsidies, and metacommunity evolution. Multispecies extensions indicate that correlated selection can further alter the outcome of interspecific interactions depending on the magnitude and direction of correlations and shape of fitness trade-offs. We suggest that an evolving metacommunity perspective has the potential to generate novel predictions about community structure and function by incorporating the genetic and species diversity that characterize natural communities. In adopting such a perspective, we seek to facilitate understanding about the interactions between evolutionary and metacommunity dynamics.

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