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Ecology. 2006 Apr;87(4):1008-16.

Metacommunity influences on community richness at multiple spatial scales: a microcosm experiment.

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Complex Systems Group, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996, USA.


Large-scale processes are known to be important for patterns of species richness, yet the ways in which local and larger scale processes interact is not clear. I used metacommunities consisting of five interconnected microbial aquatic communities to examine the manner in which processes at different scales affect local and metacommunity richness. Specifically, I manipulated the potential dispersal rate, whether dispersal was localized or global, and variation in initial community composition. A repeated-measures ANOVA showed that a low dispersal rate and intermediate distance dispersal enhanced local richness. Initial assembly variation had no effect on local richness, while a lack of dispersal or global dispersal reduced local richness. At the metacommunity scale, richness was enhanced throughout the time course of the experiment by initial compositional variation and was reduced by high or global dispersal. The effects of dispersal were contingent on the presence of initial compositional variation. The treatments also affected individual species occupancy patterns, with some benefiting from large-scale processes and others being adversely impacted. These results indicate that the effects of dispersal on species richness have a complex relationship with scale and are not solely divisible into "regional" vs. "local" scales. Finally, predictions of the manner in which dispersal rate structures communities appear dependent upon species compositional variation among communities.

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