The effects of colonization, extinction and competition on co-existence in metacommunities.

Mathematical Ecology Research Group, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford.
Journal of Animal Ecology (Impact Factor: 4.84). 04/2009; 78(4):866-79. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2009.01532.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 1. The co-existence of competitors in heterogeneous landscapes depends on the processes of colonization, extinction and spatial scale. In this study, we explore the metapopulation dynamics of competitive interactions. 2. Rather than simply evaluating the outcome of interspecific competition in the traditional manner, we focus on both the local population dynamic effects and the regional metapopulation processes affecting species co-existence. 3. We develop a theoretical model of regional co-existence to generate a set of predictions on the patterns of colonization necessary for co-existence and the regional processes that can lead to competitive exclusion. We empirically test these predictions using metacommunity microcosms of the interaction between two bruchid beetles (Callosobruchus chinensis, Callosobruchus maculatus). 4. Using well-replicated time series of the interaction between the bruchids and statistical methods of model fitting, we show how the qualitative and quantitative pattern of interspecific competition between the bruchid beetles is shaped by the structure of the metacommunity. 5. In unlimited dispersal metacommunities, the global exclusion of the inferior competitor is shown to be influenced more by the processes associated with extinction rather than low colonization ability. In restricted dispersal metacommunities, we show how the co-existence of competitors in a spatially heterogeneous habitat (patches connected through limited dispersal) is affected by Allee effects and life-history [colonization (dispersal) - competition] trade-offs.

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