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Ecology. 2006 Dec;87(12):2985-91.

The role of environmental and spatial processes in structuring lake communities from bacteria to fish.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Quebec at Montreal, C.P. 8888, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, Quebec H3C3P8, Canada.


We assessed the relative roles of local environmental conditions and dispersal on community structure in a landscape of lakes for the major trophic groups. We use taxonomic presence-absence and abundance data for bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and fish from 18 lakes in southern Quebec, Canada. The question of interest was whether communities composed of organisms with more limited dispersal abilities, because of size and life history (zooplankton and fish) would show a different effect of lake distribution than communities composed of good dispersers (bacteria and phytoplankton). We examine the variation in structure attributable to local environmental (i.e., lake chemical and physical variables) vs. dispersal predictors (i.e., overland and watercourse distances between lakes) using variation partitioning techniques. Overall, we show that less motile species (crustacean zooplankton and fish) are better predicted by spatial factors than by local environmental ones. Furthermore, we show that for zooplankton abundances, both overland and watercourse dispersal pathways are equally strong, though they may select for different components of the community, while for fish, only watercourses are relevant dispersal pathways. These results suggest that crustacean zooplankton and fish are more constrained by dispersal and therefore more likely to operate as a metacommunity than are bacteria and phytoplankton within this studied landscape.

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