University of Oulu

García‐Girón, J., Heino, J., García‐Criado, F., Fernández‐Aláez, C. and Alahuhta, J. (2020), Biotic interactions hold the key to understanding metacommunity organisation. Ecography, 43: 1180-1190.

Biotic interactions hold the key to understanding metacommunity organisation

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Author: García‐Girón, Jorge1,2; Heino, Jani3; García‐Criado, Francisco1;
Organizations: 1Ecology Unit, Univ. of León, León, Spain
2Geography Research Unit, Univ. of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3Finnish Environment Inst., Freshwater Centre, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-12-02


Biotic interactions are fundamental drivers governing biodiversity locally, yet their effects on geographical variation in community composition (i.e. incidence‐based) and community structure (i.e. abundance‐based) at regional scales remain controversial. Ecologists have only recently started to integrate different types of biotic interactions into community assembly in a spatial context, a theme that merits further empirical quantification. Here, we applied partial correlation networks to infer the strength of spatial dependencies between pairs of organismal groups and mapped the imprints of biotic interactions on the assembly of pond metacommunities. To do this, we used a comprehensive empirical dataset from Mediterranean landscapes and adopted the perspective that community assembly is best represented as a network of interacting organismal groups. Our results revealed that the co‐variation among the beta diversities of multiple organismal groups is primarily driven by biotic interactions and, to a lesser extent, by the abiotic environment. These results suggest that ignoring biotic interactions may undermine our understanding of assembly mechanisms in spatially extensive areas and decrease the accuracy and performance of predictive models. We further found strong spatial dependencies in our analyses which can be interpreted as functional relationships among several pairs of organismal groups (e.g. macrophytes–macroinvertebrates, fish–zooplankton). Perhaps more importantly, our results support the notion that biotic interactions make crucial contributions to the species sorting paradigm of metacommunity theory and raise the question of whether these biologically‐driven signals have been equally underappreciated in other aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Although more research is still required to empirically capture the importance of biotic interactions across ecosystems and at different spatial resolutions and extents, our findings may allow decision makers to better foresee the main consequences of human‐driven impacts on inland waters, particularly those associated with the addition or removal of key species.

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Series: Ecography
ISSN: 0906-7590
ISSN-E: 1600-0587
ISSN-L: 0906-7590
Volume: 43
Issue: 8
Pages: 1180 - 1190
DOI: 10.1111/ecog.05032
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This study was funded by the Univ. of León (LIMNO 417, Univ. of León, grant BB262). JGG, FGC and CFA appreciate financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Industry (project METAPONDS, grant CGL2017‐84176R), the Junta of Castilla y León (grant LE004G18) and from the Fundación Biodiversidad (Spanish Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge). JA is supported (in part) by the Academy of Finland (grant 322652).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 322652
Detailed Information: 322652 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2020 The Authors. Ecography published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.