Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Metapopulations are so last decade. All the hip kids are now into 'metacommunities' - sets of local communities that are linked by dispersal of multiple interacting species. Although this idea was suggested in 1992 (Complex Interactions in Metacommunities, with Implications for Biodiversity and Higher Levels of Selection) it has really only reached buzzword status in the last few years (eg The metacommunity concept: a framework for multi-scale community ecology.)

Here's a recent example with conservation implications that is very accessible: Plant extinction dynamics in an insular metacommunity.

In an attempt to better understand the causes of variation in species turnover, we quantified the colonization and extinction dynamics of woody plants inhabiting a temperate island archipelago. We measured the population sizes of 10 woody plant species on 18 islands off the west coast of Canada in 1997. Islands were resampled a decade later and the resulting data were used to answer four questions: 1) Is there evidence for species turnover? 2) If so, is colonization balanced by extinction? 3) Is among-island variation in species turnover associated with average population sizes, average plant stature, island area, isolation or exposure to ocean-borne disturbances? 4) Is amongspecies variation in species turnover associated with interspecific  differences in leaf morphology?

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