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Climate change affects colonization dynamics in a metacommunity of three Daphnia species

Authors

  • FLORIAN ALTERMATT,

    1. Zoologisches Institut, Universität Basel, Vesalgasse 1, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland,
    2. Tvärminne Zoological Station, SF-10900 Hanko, Finland,
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  • V. ILMARI PAJUNEN,

    1. Tvärminne Zoological Station, SF-10900 Hanko, Finland,
    2. Department of Ecology and Systematics, Division of Population Biology, PO Box 65, Biocenter 3 (Viikinkaari), SF-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
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  • DIETER EBERT

    1. Zoologisches Institut, Universität Basel, Vesalgasse 1, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland,
    2. Tvärminne Zoological Station, SF-10900 Hanko, Finland,
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Florian Altermatt, fax +41 61 267 03 62, e-mail: florian.altermatt@unibas.ch

Abstract

Climate change is expected to alter the range and abundance of many species by influencing habitat qualities. For species living in fragmented populations, not only the quality of the present patches but also access to new habitat patches may be affected. Here, we show that colonization in a metacommunity can be directly influenced by weather changes, and that these observed weather changes are consistent with global climate change models. Using a long-term dataset from a rock pool metacommunity of the three species Daphnia magna, Daphnia longispina and Daphnia pulex with 507 monitored habitat patches, we correlated a four-fold increase in colonization rate with warmer, drier weather for the period from 1982 to 2006. The higher colonization rate after warm and dry summers led to an increase in metacommunity dynamics over time. A mechanistic explanation for the increased colonization rate is that the resting stages have a higher exposure to animal and wind dispersal in desiccated rock pools. Although colonization rates reacted in the same direction in all three species, there were significant species-specific effects that resulted in an overall change in the metacommunity composition. Increased local instability and colonization dynamics may even lead to higher global stability of the metacommunity. Thus, whereas climate change has been reported to cause a unidirectional change in species range for many other species, it changes the dynamics and composition of an entire community in this metacommunity, with winners and losers difficult to predict.

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