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Oecologia. 2007 Aug;153(1):135-43. Epub 2007 Mar 21.

Measuring and modeling dispersal of adult zooplankton.

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  • 1Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


Habitat fragmentation poses an inherent problem for metacommunity dynamics, as dispersal among communities is hindered by increasing isolation and the loss of patches. Wetlands are one such system that have undergone excessive destruction and fragmentation in recent years. Zooplankton within these communities have historically been considered frequent and widespread dispersers, but direct, quantitative measures of zooplankton dispersal are rare. In this study, I performed two experiments to quantify zooplankton dispersal and to identify the primary dispersal vectors. I first set up an array of traps at 10, 30, 60, 120 and 180 m around an isolated pond to collect dispersing individuals. Nearly 1,500 adult zooplankton were captured in traps up to 180 m from the pond, with approximately 60% of dispersers being captured in traps at 10 m from the pond. A second experiment using open and animal-excluded traps suggested that large animals were the primary dispersal vector for these zooplankton. Using a subset of these data, I fit four models to describe the shape and magnitude of adult cladoceran dispersal at this site. All models showed the majority of cladocerans were deposited very close to the source pond, with three models suggesting that the trapping area encompassed 67% or more of the dispersal distances. These results suggest that adult zooplankton movement among ponds may be significant in areas where aquatic habitats are plentiful. Yet, in recent years climate change and anthropogenic disturbances have reduced the number and size of aquatic habitats in many regions of the world, likely curtailing effective transport of individuals in many cases. As a result, fragmented zooplankton metacommunities may experience increased dispersal limitation, stronger priority effects, higher levels of inbreeding and selection against traits engendering high dispersability.

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