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Dispersal in dendritic networks: Ecological consequences on the spatial distribution of population densities


Altermatt, Florian; Fronhofer, Emanuel A (2018). Dispersal in dendritic networks: Ecological consequences on the spatial distribution of population densities. Freshwater Biology, 63(1):22-32.

Abstract

1. Understanding the consequences of spatial structure on ecological dynamics is a central theme in ecology. Recently, research has recognised the relevance of river and river-analogue network structures, because these systems are not only highly diverse but also rapidly changing due to habitat modifications or species invasions.
2. Much of the previous work on ecological and evolutionary dynamics in metapop- ulations and metacommunities in dendritic river networks has been either using comparative approaches or was purely theoretical. However, the use of micro- cosm experiments provides the unique opportunity to study large-scale questions in a causal and experimental framework.
3. We conducted replicated microcosm experiments, in which we manipulated the spatially explicit network configuration of a landscape and addressed how linear versus dendritic connectivity affects population dynamics, specifically the spatial distribution of population densities, and movement behaviour of the protist model organism Tetrahymena pyriformis. We tracked population densities and individual-level movement behaviour of thousands of individuals over time.
4. At the end of the experiment, we found more variable population densities between patches in dendritic networks compared to linear networks, as pre- dicted by theory. Specifically, in dendritic networks, population densities were higher at nodes that connected to headwaters compared to the headwaters themselves and to more central nodes in the network. These differences follow theoretical predictions and emerged from the different network topologies per se. These differences in population densities emerged despite weakly density- dependent movement.
5. We show that differences in network structure alone can cause characteristic spatial variation in population densities. While such differences have been postu- lated by theoretical work and are the underlying precondition for differential dis- persal evolution in heterogeneous networks, our results may be the first experimental demonstration thereof. Furthermore, these population-level dynam- ics may affect extinction risks and can upscale to previously shown metacommu- nity level diversity dynamics. Given that many species in natural river systems exhibit strong spatiotemporal patterns in population densities, our work suggests that abundance patterns should not only be addressed from a local environmental perspective, but may be the outcome of processes that are inher- ently driven by the respective habitat network structure.

Abstract

1. Understanding the consequences of spatial structure on ecological dynamics is a central theme in ecology. Recently, research has recognised the relevance of river and river-analogue network structures, because these systems are not only highly diverse but also rapidly changing due to habitat modifications or species invasions.
2. Much of the previous work on ecological and evolutionary dynamics in metapop- ulations and metacommunities in dendritic river networks has been either using comparative approaches or was purely theoretical. However, the use of micro- cosm experiments provides the unique opportunity to study large-scale questions in a causal and experimental framework.
3. We conducted replicated microcosm experiments, in which we manipulated the spatially explicit network configuration of a landscape and addressed how linear versus dendritic connectivity affects population dynamics, specifically the spatial distribution of population densities, and movement behaviour of the protist model organism Tetrahymena pyriformis. We tracked population densities and individual-level movement behaviour of thousands of individuals over time.
4. At the end of the experiment, we found more variable population densities between patches in dendritic networks compared to linear networks, as pre- dicted by theory. Specifically, in dendritic networks, population densities were higher at nodes that connected to headwaters compared to the headwaters themselves and to more central nodes in the network. These differences follow theoretical predictions and emerged from the different network topologies per se. These differences in population densities emerged despite weakly density- dependent movement.
5. We show that differences in network structure alone can cause characteristic spatial variation in population densities. While such differences have been postu- lated by theoretical work and are the underlying precondition for differential dis- persal evolution in heterogeneous networks, our results may be the first experimental demonstration thereof. Furthermore, these population-level dynam- ics may affect extinction risks and can upscale to previously shown metacommu- nity level diversity dynamics. Given that many species in natural river systems exhibit strong spatiotemporal patterns in population densities, our work suggests that abundance patterns should not only be addressed from a local environmental perspective, but may be the outcome of processes that are inher- ently driven by the respective habitat network structure.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:bacteria–protist metacommunities, dispersal, ecological theory, microcosm experiment, protists, river-like networks
Language:English
Date:January 2018
Deposited On:05 Jan 2018 20:31
Last Modified:18 Apr 2018 11:49
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0046-5070
Funders:EAWAG, Swiss National Science Foundation Grant No PP00P3_150698 (to F.A.)
Additional Information:Special Issue: Metacommunities in river networks: The importance of network structure and connectivity on patterns and processes
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.12951
Project Information:
  • : Funder
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleEAWAG
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleSwiss National Science Foundation Grant No PP00P3_150698 (to F.A.)

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