Dispersal limitation is generally considered to have little influence on the spatial structure of biodiversity in microbial metacommunities. This notion derives mainly from the analysis of spatial patterns in the field, but experimental tests of dispersal limitation using natural communities are rare for prokaryotes and, to our knowledge, non-existent for viruses. We studied the effects of dispersal intensity (three levels) and patch heterogeneity (two levels) on the structure of replicate experimental metacommunities of bacteria and viruses using outdoor mesocosms with plankton communities from natural ponds and lakes. Low levels of dispersal resulted in a decrease in the compositional differences (beta diversity) among the communities of both bacteria and viruses, but we found no effects of patch heterogeneity. The reductions in beta diversity are unlikely to be a result of mass effects and only partly explained by indirect dispersal-mediated interactions with phytoplankton and zooplankton. Our results suggest that even a very limited exchange among local communities can alter the trajectory of bacterial and viral communities at small temporal and spatial scales.
Declerck, S. A. J., Winter, C., Shurin, J. B., Suttle, C. A., & Matthews, B. (2013). Effects of patch connectivity and heterogeneity on metacommunity structure of planktonic bacteria and viruses. ISME Journal, 7(3), 533-542. https://doi.org/10.1038/ismej.2012.138