Body size and dispersal mode as key traits determining metacommunity structure of aquatic organisms

T. De Bie, L. De Meester, L. Brendonck, K. Martens, B. Goddeeris, D. Ercken, H. Hampel, L. Denys, L. Vanhecke, K. Van der Gucht, J. Van Wichelen, W. Vyverman, S.A.J. Declerck

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Relationships between traits of organisms and the structure of their metacommunities have so far mainly been explored with meta-analyses. We compared metacommunities of a wide variety of aquatic organism groups (12 groups, ranging from bacteria to fish) in the same set of 99 ponds to minimise biases inherent to meta-analyses. In the category of passive dispersers, large-bodied groups showed stronger spatial patterning than small-bodied groups suggesting an increasing impact of dispersal limitation with increasing body size. Metacommunities of organisms with the ability to fly (i.e. insect groups) showed a weaker imprint of dispersal limitation than passive dispersers with similar body size. In contrast, dispersal movements of vertebrate groups (fish and amphibians) seemed to be mainly confined to local connectivity patterns. Our results reveal that body size and dispersal mode are important drivers of metacommunity structure and these traits should therefore be considered when developing a predictive framework for metacommunity dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-747
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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