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Am Nat. 2003 Aug;162(2):165-71. Epub 2003 Jul 16.

Dispersal rates affect species composition in metacommunities of Sarracenia purpurea inquilines.

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Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306, USA.


Dispersal among local communities can have a variety of effects on species composition and diversity at local and regional scales. Local conditions (e.g., resource and predator densities) can have independent effects, as well as interact with dispersal, to alter these patterns. Based on metacommunity models, we predicted that local diversity would show a unimodal relationship with dispersal frequency. We manipulated dispersal frequencies, resource levels, and the presence of predators (mosquito larvae) among communities found in the water-filled leaves of the pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea. Diversity and abundance of species of the middle trophic level, protozoa and rotifers, were measured. Increased dispersal frequencies significantly increased regional species richness and protozoan abundance while decreasing the variance among local communities. Dispersal frequency interacted with predation at the local community scale to produce patterns of diversity consistent with the model. When predators were absent, we found a unimodal relationship between dispersal frequency and diversity, and when predators were present, there was a flat relationship. Intermediate dispersal frequencies maintained some species in the inquiline communities by offsetting extinction rates. Local community composition and the degree of connectivity between communities are both important for understanding species diversity patterns at local and regional scales.

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