Increasing spatio-temporal scales: metacommunity ecology
A metacommunity consists of several local communities connected by dispersal. A metacommunity perspective helps to synthesize community ecology across spatial scales, and provides insights into the spatial mechanisms causing variation in species coexistence, strengths of species interactions and patterns of local and regional diversity. For example, while increasing the rate of dispersal among habitats can often lead to higher diversity of species, high dispersal can also homogenize the variation among communities (e.g. lower among-site variation (β-diversity) and increase predation intensity. An explicit consideration of scale, and, in particular, the relationship between local (α-diversity) and regional (γ-diversity), as mediated through β-diversity, will provide insights into the mechanisms underlying the structure of metacommunities. Finally, an explicitly spatial perspective must recognize the potential importance of movement of organisms and materials across traditional taxonomic (e.g. different trophic levels) and ecosystem (e.g. aquatic, terrestrial) boundaries.
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