Looking for hotspots of marine metacommunity connectivity: a methodological framework.
ABSTRACT: Seascape connectivity critically affects the spatiotemporal dynamics of marine metacommunities. Understanding how connectivity patterns emerge from physically and biologically-mediated interactions is therefore crucial to conserve marine ecosystem functions and biodiversity. Here, we develop a set of biophysical models to explore connectivity in assemblages of species belonging to a typical Mediterranean community (Posidonia oceanica meadows) and characterized by different dispersing traits. We propose a novel methodological framework to synthesize species-specific results into a set of community connectivity metrics and show that spatiotemporal variation in magnitude and direction of the connections, as well as interspecific differences in dispersing traits, are key factors structuring community connectivity. We eventually demonstrate how these metrics can be used to characterize the functional role of each marine area in determining patterns of community connectivity at the basin level and to support marine conservation planning.
Project description:Dispersal plays a key role to connect populations and, if limited, is one of the main processes to maintain and generate regional biodiversity. According to neutral theories of molecular evolution and biodiversity, dispersal limitation of propagules and population stochasticity are integral to shaping both genetic and community structure. We conducted a parallel analysis of biological connectivity at genetic and community levels in marine groups with different dispersal traits. We compiled large data sets of population genetic structure (98 benthic macroinvertebrate and 35 planktonic species) and biogeographic data (2193 benthic macroinvertebrate and 734 planktonic species). We estimated dispersal distances from population genetic data (i.e., FST vs. geographic distance) and from ?-diversity at the community level. Dispersal distances ranked the biological groups in the same order at both genetic and community levels, as predicted by organism dispersal ability and seascape connectivity: macrozoobenthic species without dispersing larvae, followed by macrozoobenthic species with dispersing larvae and plankton (phyto- and zooplankton). This ranking order is associated with constraints to the movement of macrozoobenthos within the seabed compared with the pelagic habitat. We showed that dispersal limitation similarly determines the connectivity degree of communities and populations, supporting the predictions of neutral theories in marine biodiversity patterns.
Project description:A major challenge in community ecology is to understand the underlying factors driving metacommunity (i.e., a set of local communities connected through species dispersal) dynamics. However, little is known about the effects of varying spatial scale on the relative importance of environmental and spatial (i.e., dispersal related) factors in shaping metacommunities and on the relevance of different dispersal pathways. Using a hierarchy of insect metacommunities at three spatial scales (a small, within-stream scale, intermediate, among-stream scale, and large, among-sub-basin scale), we assessed whether the relative importance of environmental and spatial factors shaping metacommunity structure varies predictably across spatial scales, and tested how the importance of different dispersal routes vary across spatial scales. We also studied if different dispersal ability groups differ in the balance between environmental and spatial control. Variation partitioning showed that environmental factors relative to spatial factors were more important for community composition at the within-stream scale. In contrast, spatial factors (i.e., eigenvectors from Moran's eigenvector maps) relative to environmental factors were more important at the among-sub-basin scale. These results indicate that environmental filtering is likely to be more important at the smallest scale with highest connectivity, while dispersal limitation seems to be more important at the largest scale with lowest connectivity. Community variation at the among-stream and among-sub-basin scales were strongly explained by geographical and topographical distances, indicating that overland pathways might be the main dispersal route at the larger scales among more isolated sites. The relative effect of environmental and spatial factors on insect communities varied between low and high dispersal ability groups; this variation was inconsistent among three hierarchical scales. In sum, our study indicates that spatial scale, connectivity, and dispersal ability jointly shape stream metacommunities.
Project description:In conservation prioritisation, it is often implicit that representation targets for individual habitat types act as surrogates for the species that inhabit them. Yet for many commercially and ecologically important coral reef fish species, connectivity among different habitats in a seascape may be more important than any single habitat alone. Approaches to conservation prioritisation that consider seascape connectivity are thus warranted. I demonstrate an approach that can be implemented within a relatively data-poor context, using widely available conservation planning software. Based on clearly stated assumptions regarding species' habitat usage and movement ability, this approach can be adapted to different focal species and contexts, or refined as further data become available. I first derive a seascape connectivity metric based on area-weighted proximity between juvenile and adult habitat patches, and then apply this during spatial prioritisation using the decision-support software Marxan. Using a case study from Micronesia, I present two applications: first, to inform prioritisation for a network of marine protected areas to achieve regional objectives for habitat representation; and second, to identify nursery habitat patches that are most likely to supply juveniles to adult populations on reefs within existing protected areas. Incorporating seascape connectivity in conservation prioritisation highlights areas where small marine protected areas placed on coral reefs might benefit from proximity to other habitats in the seascape, and thus be more effective. Within the context of community tenure over resources, identification of critical nursery habitats to improve the effectiveness of existing marine protected areas indicates where collaboration across community boundaries might be required. Outputs from these analyses are likely to be most useful in regions where management is highly decentralised, imposing spatial constraints on the size of individual protected areas.
Project description:Seascape ecology is an emerging discipline focused on understanding how features of the marine habitat influence the spatial distribution of marine species. However, there is still a gap in the development of concepts and techniques for its application in the marine pelagic realm, where there are no clear boundaries delimitating habitats. Here we demonstrate that pelagic seascape metrics defined as a combination of hydrographic variables and their spatial gradients calculated at an appropriate spatial scale, improve our ability to model pelagic fish distribution. We apply the analysis to study the spawning locations of two tuna species: Atlantic bluefin and bullet tuna. These two species represent a gradient in life history strategies. Bluefin tuna has a large body size and is a long-distant migrant, while bullet tuna has a small body size and lives year-round in coastal waters within the Mediterranean Sea. The results show that the models performance incorporating the proposed seascape metrics increases significantly when compared with models that do not consider these metrics. This improvement is more important for Atlantic bluefin, whose spawning ecology is dependent on the local oceanographic scenario, than it is for bullet tuna, which is less influenced by the hydrographic conditions. Our study advances our understanding of how species perceive their habitat and confirms that the spatial scale at which the seascape metrics provide information is related to the spawning ecology and life history strategy of each species.
Project description:We studied community-environment relationships of lake macrophytes at two metacommunity scales using data from 16 regions across the world. More specifically, we examined (a) whether the lake macrophyte communities respond similar to key local environmental factors, major climate variables and lake spatial locations in each of the regions (i.e., within-region approach) and (b) how well can explained variability in the community-environment relationships across multiple lake macrophyte metacommunities be accounted for by elevation range, spatial extent, latitude, longitude, and age of the oldest lake within each metacommunity (i.e., across-region approach). In the within-region approach, we employed partial redundancy analyses together with variation partitioning to investigate the relative importance of local variables, climate variables, and spatial location on lake macrophytes among the study regions. In the across-region approach, we used adjusted R2 values of the variation partitioning to model the community-environment relationships across multiple metacommunities using linear regression and commonality analysis. We found that niche filtering related to local lake-level environmental conditions was the dominant force structuring macrophytes within metacommunities. However, our results also revealed that elevation range associated with climate (increasing temperature amplitude affecting macrophytes) and spatial location (likely due to dispersal limitation) was important for macrophytes based on the findings of the across-metacommunities analysis. These findings suggest that different determinants influence macrophyte metacommunities within different regions, thus showing context dependency. Moreover, our study emphasized that the use of a single metacommunity scale gives incomplete information on the environmental features explaining variation in macrophyte communities.
Project description:Within a metacommunity, both environmental and spatial processes regulate variation in local community structure. The strength of these processes may vary depending on species traits (e.g., dispersal mode) or the characteristics of the regions studied (e.g., spatial extent, environmental heterogeneity). We studied the metacommunity structuring of three groups of stream macroinvertebrates differing in their overland dispersal mode (passive dispersers with aquatic adults; passive dispersers with terrestrial adults; active dispersers with terrestrial adults). We predicted that environmental structuring should be more important for active dispersers, because of their better ability to track environmental variability, and that spatial structuring should be more important for species with aquatic adults, because of stronger dispersal limitation. We sampled a total of 70 stream riffle sites in three drainage basins. Environmental heterogeneity was unrelated to spatial extent among our study regions, allowing us to examine the effects of these two factors on metacommunity structuring. We used partial redundancy analysis and Moran's eigenvector maps based on overland and watercourse distances to study the relative importance of environmental control and spatial structuring. We found that, compared with environmental control, spatial structuring was generally negligible, and it did not vary according to our predictions. In general, active dispersers with terrestrial adults showed stronger environmental control than the two passively dispersing groups, suggesting that the species dispersing actively are better able to track environmental variability. There were no clear differences in the results based on watercourse and overland distances. The variability in metacommunity structuring among basins was not related to the differences in the environmental heterogeneity and spatial extent. Our study emphasized that (1) environmental control is prevailing in stream metacommunities, (2) dispersal mode may have an important effect on metacommunity structuring, and (3) some factors other than spatial extent or environmental heterogeneity contributed to the differences among the basins.
Project description:Distinguishing management effects from the inherent variability in a system is a key consideration in assessing reserve efficacy. Here, we demonstrate how seascape heterogeneity, defined as the spatial configuration and composition of coral reef habitats, can mask our ability to discern reserve effects. We then test the application of a landscape approach, utilizing advances in benthic habitat mapping and GIS techniques, to quantify this heterogeneity and alleviate the confounding influence during reserve assessment. Seascape metrics were quantified at multiple spatial scales using a combination of spatial image analysis and in situ surveys at 87 patch reef sites in Glover's Reef Lagoon, Belize, within and outside a marine reserve enforced since 1998. Patch reef sites were then clustered into classes sharing similar seascape attributes using metrics that correlated significantly to observed variations in both fish and coral communities. When the efficacy of the marine reserve was assessed without including landscape attributes, no reserve effects were detected in the diversity and abundance of fish and coral communities, despite 10 years of management protection. However, grouping sites based on landscape attributes revealed significant reserve effects between site classes. Fish had higher total biomass (1.5x) and commercially important biomass (1.75x) inside the reserve and coral cover was 1.8 times greater inside the reserve, though direction and degree of response varied by seascape class. Our findings show that the application of a landscape classification approach vastly improves our ability to evaluate the efficacy of marine reserves by controlling for confounding effects of seascape heterogeneity and suggests that landscape heterogeneity should be considered in future reserve design.
Project description:Resource enrichment can potentially destabilize predator-prey dynamics. This phenomenon historically referred as the "paradox of enrichment" has mostly been explored in spatially homogenous environments. However, many predator-prey communities exchange organisms within spatially heterogeneous networks called metacommunities. This heterogeneity can result from uneven distribution of resources among communities and thus can lead to the spreading of local enrichment within metacommunities. Here, we adapted the original Rosenzweig-MacArthur predator-prey model, built to study the paradox of enrichment, to investigate the effect of regional enrichment and of its spatial distribution on predator-prey dynamics in metacommunities. We found that the potential for destabilization was depending on the connectivity among communities and the spatial distribution of enrichment. In one hand, we found that at low dispersal regional enrichment led to the destabilization of predator-prey dynamics. This destabilizing effect was more pronounced when the enrichment was uneven among communities. In the other hand, we found that high dispersal could stabilize the predator-prey dynamics when the enrichment was spatially heterogeneous. Our results illustrate that the destabilizing effect of enrichment can be dampened when the spatial scale of resource enrichment is lower than that of organismss movements (heterogeneous enrichment). From a conservation perspective, our results illustrate that spatial heterogeneity could decrease the regional extinction risk of species involved in specialized trophic interactions. From the perspective of biological control, our results show that the heterogeneous distribution of pest resource could favor or dampen outbreaks of pests and of their natural enemies, depending on the spatial scale of heterogeneity.
Project description:This study explored the spatiotemporal dynamics of the bacterioplankton community composition in the Gulf of Finland (easternmost sub-basin of the Baltic Sea) based on phylogenetic analysis of 16S rDNA sequences acquired from community samples via pyrosequencing. Investigations of bacterioplankton in hydrographically complex systems provide good insight into the strategies by which microbes deal with spatiotemporal hydrographic gradients, as demonstrated by our research. Many ribotypes were closely affiliated with sequences isolated from environments with similar steep physiochemical gradients and/or seasonal changes, including seasonally anoxic estuaries. Hence, one of the main conclusions of this study is that marine ecosystems where oxygen and salinity gradients co-occur can be considered a habitat for a cosmopolitan metacommunity consisting of specialized groups occupying niches universal to such environments throughout the world. These niches revolve around functional capabilities to utilize different electron receptors and donors (including trace metal and single carbon compounds). On the other hand, temporal shifts in the bacterioplankton community composition at the surface layer were mainly connected to the seasonal succession of phytoplankton and the inflow of freshwater species. We also conclude that many relatively abundant populations are indigenous and well-established in the area.
Project description:Lakes and their topological distribution across Earth's surface impose ecological and evolutionary constraints on aquatic metacommunities. In this study, we group similar lake ecosystems as metacommunity units influencing diatom community structure. We assembled a database of 195 lakes from the tropical Andes and adjacent lowlands (8°N-30°S and 58-79°W) with associated environmental predictors to examine diatom metacommunity patterns at two different levels: taxon and functional (deconstructed species matrix by ecological guilds). We also derived spatial variables that inherently assessed the relative role of dispersal. Using complementary multivariate statistical techniques (principal component analysis, cluster analysis, nonmetric multidimensional scaling, Procrustes, variance partitioning), we examined diatom-environment relationships among different lake habitats (sediment surface, periphyton, and plankton) and partitioned community variation to evaluate the influence of niche- and dispersal-based assembly processes in diatom metacommunity structure across lake clusters. The results showed a significant association between geographic clusters of lakes based on gradients of climate and landscape configuration and diatom assemblages. Six lake clusters distributed along a latitudinal gradient were identified as functional metacommunity units for diatom communities. Variance partitioning revealed that dispersal mechanisms were a major contributor to diatom metacommunity structure, but in a highly context-dependent fashion across lake clusters. In the Andean Altiplano and adjacent lowlands of Bolivia, diatom metacommunities are niche assembled but constrained by either dispersal limitation or mass effects, resulting from area, environmental heterogeneity, and ecological guild relationships. Topographic heterogeneity played an important role in structuring planktic diatom metacommunities. We emphasize the value of a guild-based metacommunity model linked to dispersal for elucidating mechanisms underlying latitudinal gradients in distribution. Our findings reveal the importance of shifts in ecological drivers across climatic and physiographically distinct lake clusters, providing a basis for comparison of broad-scale community gradients in lake-rich regions elsewhere. This may help guide future research to explore evolutionary constraints on the rich Neotropical benthic diatom species pool.