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Ecol Evol. 2015 Jan;5(1):200-12. doi: 10.1002/ece3.1369. Epub 2014 Dec 17.

Temporal dynamics of a local fish community are strongly affected by immigration from the surrounding metacommunity.

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The Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre, CSIRO Land and Water Wodonga, Victoria, Australia.
Plymouth Marine Laboratory, The Hoe Plymouth, PL1 3DH, U.K.
The Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre, La Trobe University Mildura, Victoria, Australia.


A 5-year time series of annual censuses was collected from a large floodplain lake to determine how dynamics of the local fish community were affected by changes in hydrological connectivity with the surrounding metacommunity. The lake was disconnected from the metacommunity for 1 year prior to our study and remained disconnected until 3 months before our third annual census, when a flood reconnected the lake to the metacommunity. We determined how changes in connectivity affected temporal dynamics of (1) local community composition and (2) the population composition, condition, and growth of catfish, to shed light on how immigration of other species might affect local population dynamics. Before reconnection, the community was likely shaped by interactions between the local environment and species traits. The reconnection caused significant immigration and change in community composition and correlated with a significant and abrupt decline in catfish condition, growth, and abundance; effects likely due to the immigration of a competitor with a similar trophic niche: carp. The community was slow to return to its preconnection state, which may be due to dispersal traits of the fishes, and a time-lag in the recovery of the local catfish population following transient intensification of species interactions. The dynamics observed were concordant with the species sorting and mass-effects perspectives of metacommunity theory. Floods cause episodic dispersal in floodplain fish metacommunities, and so, flood frequency determines the relative importance of regional and local processes. Local processes may be particularly important to certain species, but these species may need sufficient time between floods for population increase, before the next flood-induced dispersal episode brings competitors and predators that might cause population decline. Accordingly, species coexistence in these metacommunities may be facilitated by spatiotemporal storage effects, which may in turn be regulated by flood frequency.


Community ecology; flow regime; hydrological connectivity; hydrological fragmentation; migration; neutral theory; patch dynamics; species traits

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