Plant metacommunity structure remains unchanged during biodiversity loss in English woodlands

Keith, Sally A., Newton, Adrian C., Morecroft, Michael D., Golicher, Duncan J., and Bullock, James M. (2011) Plant metacommunity structure remains unchanged during biodiversity loss in English woodlands. Oikos, 120 (2). pp. 302-310.

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Abstract

The metacommunity concept provides important insights into large-scale patterns and dynamics of distributions of interacting species. However, temporal change of metacommunity structure is little studied and has not been previously analysed in the context of biodiversity change. As metacommunity structure is determined by multiple species distributions, it is expected to change as a result of biodiversity loss. To examine this process, we analysed structural change of a southern English woodland metacommunity at two points in time, seven decades apart. During this interval, the metacommunity lost β-diversity through taxonomic homogenization. We performed an ‘elements of metacommunity structure' (EMS) analysis to examine metacommunity structure, based upon three structural elements: coherence (i.e. gaps in species range along a structuring gradient), spatial turnover (replacements), and species range boundary clumping. We predicted that metacommunity structure would decrease in spatial turnover and thus become more nested over time. We tested for change in individual structural elements with z-scores and examined the role of spatial and environmental variables as potential structuring mechanisms through correlation with EMS ordination axes. Our results demonstrated that the metacommunity had a Clementsian structure that was maintained over time. Despite no change in broad structure, coherence and species range boundary clumping increased. Spatial turnover increased along the first structuring gradient but decreased on the second gradient. We hypothesise that this difference between gradients may reflect the presence of competing processes affecting spatial turnover. The mechanisms of biological structuring involved both environmental and spatial factors at the scale of the individual woodland. Therefore, our results suggest that broad metacommunity structure would not be a good landscape-scale indicator for conservation status. Conversely, knowledge that metacommunity structure does not change over time could assist in long-term conservation strategy because fundamental metacommunity structural processes are resistant to environmental change.

Item ID: 15435
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
ISSN: 1600-0706
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2011 05:07
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050104 Landscape Ecology @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 50%
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