The role of habitat connectivity and landscape geometry in experimental zooplankton metacommunities


  • Andrew E. Forbes,

  • Jonathan M. Chase

A. E. Forbes and J. M. Chase (correspondence), Dept of Biological Sciences and Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology, Univ. of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA ( Present address for A. Forbes, Dept of Zoology, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Theory predicts that inter-patch dispersal rates and patterns of patch heterogeneity both have the potential to alter patterns of local and regional species diversity. To test this, we manipulated both rates of habitat connectivity and the geometric arrangement of habitat heterogeneity within regions of experimental zooplankton communities. We found no effects of habitat geometry on any metric of species diversity or composition. Additionally, we found no effect of habitat connectivity rate on local species diversity. We did, however, find that increasing connectivity led to a decrease in regional diversity, as well as an increase in the percent similarity of local communities within regions. Of all of the species in these communities, the relatively large cladoceran Ceriodaphnia reticulata significantly responded to the treatments, and had a higher probability of achieving high densities when connectance was high. As such, we suggest that this species played a large role in driving the increased local community similarity and decreased regional species richness as connectivity increased. These findings are in opposition to previous experimental studies of metacommunities, but support the notion that increased connectance among local patches may decrease regional diversity when patches are heterogeneous.