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Linking community and ecosystem dynamics through spatial ecology

Authors

  • François Massol,

    Corresponding author
    1. CEMAGREF – UR HYAX, 3275, route de Cézanne – Le Tholonet, CS 40061, 13182 Aix-en-Provence Cedex 5, France
    2. Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA
      E-mail:francois.massol@cemagref.fr
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  • Dominique Gravel,

    1. Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution, CNRS UMR 5554. Université de Montpellier II, Place Eugène Bataillon, CC 065, 34095 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
    2. Département de biologie, chimie et géographie, Université du Québec à Rimouski, 300 Allée des Ursulines, Québec, Canada G5L 3A1
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  • Nicolas Mouquet,

    1. Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution, CNRS UMR 5554. Université de Montpellier II, Place Eugène Bataillon, CC 065, 34095 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
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  • Marc W. Cadotte,

    1. Biological Sciences, University of Toronto-Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail, Toronto, ON, Canada M1C 1A4
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  • Tadashi Fukami,

    1. Department of Biology, Stanford University, 371 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
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  • Mathew A. Leibold

    1. Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA
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E-mail:francois.massol@cemagref.fr

Abstract

Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 313–323

Abstract

Classical approaches to food webs focus on patterns and processes occurring at the community level rather than at the broader ecosystem scale, and often ignore spatial aspects of the dynamics. However, recent research suggests that spatial processes influence both food web and ecosystem dynamics, and has led to the idea of ‘metaecosystems’. However, these processes have been tackled separately by ‘food web metacommunity’ ecology, which focuses on the movement of traits, and ‘landscape ecosystem’ ecology, which focuses on the movement of materials among ecosystems. Here, we argue that this conceptual gap must be bridged to fully understand ecosystem dynamics because many natural cases demonstrate the existence of interactions between the movements of traits and materials. This unification of concepts can be achieved under the metaecosystem framework, and we present two models that highlight how this framework yields novel insights. We then discuss patches, limiting factors and spatial explicitness as key issues to advance metaecosystem theory. We point out future avenues for research on metaecosystem theory and their potential for application to biological conservation.

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