Mouquet N., Matthiessen B, Miller T, Gonzalez A (2011). (2012).

PLoS ONE 6(3): e17567, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017567

Key message :In an increasingly modified world, understanding and predicting the consequences of landscape alteration on biodiversity is a challenge for ecologists. To this end, metacommunity theory has developed to better understand the complexity of local and regional interactions that occur across larger landscapes. While metacommunity ecology has now provided several alternative models of species coexistence at different spatial scales, predictions regarding the consequences of landscape alteration have been done exclusively for the competition-colonization trade off model (CC). In this paper we investigate the effects of landscape perturbation on source-sink metacommunities. We show that habitat destruction perturbs the equilibria among species competitive effects within the metacommunity, driving both direct extinctions and an indirect extinction debt. As in CC models, we found a time lag for extinction following habitat destruction that varied in length depending upon the relative importance of direct and indirect effects. However, in contrast to CC models, we found that the less competitive species are more affected by habitat destruction. The best competitors can sometimes even be positively affected by habitat destruction, which corresponds well with the results of field studies. Our results are complementary to those results found in CC models of metacommunity dynamics. From a conservation perspective, our results illustrate that landscape alteration jeopardizes species coexistence in patchy landscapes through complex indirect effects and delayed extinctions patterns.

Direct and indirect consequences of habitat destruction. (a) Example of the consequence of habitat destruction on species dynamics within one community included in a metacommunity. For clarity we have simulated a metacommunity with only 10 species and 10 communities. We present species abundances (proportion of ,occupied sites) as a function of time (log scale). The destruction of two communities was simulated when equilibrium was reached. The dashed lines represent the species lost through the direct effect and the dotted line the species lost through the indirect effect (b) A simple example of how the destruction of some communities from the metacommunity will alter the complementarity in species competitive ability and decrease the level of regional similarity. The figure gives a hypothetical distribution of competitive abilities in a metacommunity consisting of three species (A, B and C) that occur across three communities (1, 2 and 3). Averaging species competitive abilities at the scale of the region (line below the matrix) is the simplest definition of regional competitive. ability. The left matrix illustrates the extreme case of strict regional similarity between competing species as defined in the text: each species is the best competitor in one community, but the species have equal (similar) competitive abilities at the scale of the region. In the right matrix we destroy one community from the metacommunity (community 2) and show how it leads to less similarity at the scale of the region. One species (species A) will be lost through the direct effect but. another species (species C) can also be excluded from the metacommunity by the species (species B) that is now the best competitor at the scale of the region.

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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