The effects of habitat connectivity and regional heterogeneity on artificial pond metacommunities

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Pedruski, Michael
Metacommunity , Dispersal , Biodiversity , Zooplankton , Heterogeneity , Community Ecology , Habitat Connectivity
While much evidence suggests that ecosystem functioning is closely related to biodiversity, present rates of biodiversity loss are high. With the emergence of the metacommunity concept ecologists have become increasingly aware that both local processes (e.g. competition, predation), and regional processes (e.g. dispersal and regional heterogeneity) affect ecological communities at multiple spatial scales. I experimentally investigated the effects of habitat connectivity and regional heterogeneity on biodiversity, community composition, and ecosystem functioning of artificial pond metacommunities of freshwater invertebrates at the local (α), among-community (β), and regional (γ) spatial levels. There was a significant effect of habitat connectivity on mean local richness, but mean local Simpson diversity, mean local functional diversity (FD), and all the three indices of ecosystem functioning investigated (regional abundance, invertebrate biomass, and chlorophyll a concentration) were unaffected by connectivity levels. Regional heterogeneity had no effect on local diversity, but enhanced both among-community richness and among-community Simpson diversity. Conversely, connectivity reduced among-community Simpson diversity. All indices of regional diversity were unaffected by either connectivity or heterogeneity. Despite expectations that there would be strong interactions between the effects of connectivity and heterogeneity on species richness, there were no interactions for any index of biodiversity at any spatial scale. Invertebrate community composition was unaffected by either connectivity or heterogeneity, though there was a significant effect of heterogeneity on its variance. Neither connectivity nor heterogeneity had significant effects on any index of ecosystem functioning, nor among-community coefficients of variation of ecosystem functioning. Connectivity appears to act mainly as a force homogenizing habitat patches in a region, as opposed to having strong effects in and of itself on communities. Conversely, heterogeneity acts largely as a diversifying force, maintaining differences between communities within a region, but, similar to connectivity, it does not have clear effects on communities at the local scale. Despite the different processes expected to act in homogeneous and heterogeneous regions, it does not appear that connectivity and heterogeneity interact strongly.
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