Gravel D., Guichard F., Loreau M. and Mouquet N. (2010).

Ecology, 91, 2172-2184, doi:10.1890/09-0843.1

Key message :We present a theory extending the source-sink concept with an ecosystem perspective. We analyze a model for meta-ecosystem dynamics in a heterogeneous environment to study how the spatial flows of materials such as inorganic nutrients and nutrients sequestered into producers, herbivores, and detritus affect the community dynamics. We show that spatial flows of an inorganic nutrient (direct nutrient flow) and organic matter (indirect nutrient flow) through detritus, producer, or herbivore compartments can reverse the source–sink dynamics of a local ecosystem. More precisely, the balance between such direct and indirect nutrient flows determines the net direction of nutrient flows between two ecosystems of contrasted productivities. It allows a sink to turn into a source and vice versa. This effect of nutrient flows on source and sink dynamics is robust to the ecosystem structure (with and without herbivores) and to specific ecosystem compartments contributing to nutrient flows (primary producers, herbivores, or detritus). Ecosystems in distinct localities thus interact together with the structure at one place influencing that of the other. In metaecosystems, the source-sink dynamics of an organism is not only constrained by its dispersal from the source to the sink, but also by the fertility and community composition in the neighborhood responsible for spatial flows of nutrients and energy. The meta-ecosystem perspective provides a powerful theoretical framework to address novel questions in spatial ecosystem ecology.

The local ecosystem structure and the flows among compartments in the metaecosystem. The different panels correspond to the different scenarios described throughout the text: (A) nutrient-producer system with no recycling; (B) nutrient-producer–detritus system with detrital flows; (C) nutrient-producer-detritus system with producer flows; and (D) nutrient-producer-herbivore-detritus system with herbivore flows.

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OTHER TOPICS: Aesthetics of Biodiversity, Biodiversity & Ecosystem Functioning, Biogeography, Macroecology & Ecophylogenetics, Experimental Evolution, Functional Biogeography, Functional Rarity, Metacommunities, Metaecosystems, Reviews and Synthesis, Trophic Biogeography & Metaweb