• Community ecology;
  • evolutionary ecology;
  • evolving metacommunity;
  • gene flow;
  • landscape genetics;
  • local adaptation;
  • meta-analysis;
  • metapopulation

Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 723–732


Given the potential for rapid and microgeographical adaptation, ecologists increasingly are exploring evolutionary explanations for community patterns. Biotic selection can generate local adaptations that alter species interactions. Although some gene flow might be necessary to fuel local adaptation, higher gene flow can homogenise traits across regions and generate local maladaptation. Herein, I estimate the contributions of local biotic selection, gene flow and spatially autocorrelated biotic selection to among-population divergence in traits involved in species interactions across 75 studies. Local biotic selection explained 6.9% of inter-population trait divergence, an indirect estimate of restricted gene flow explained 0.1%, and spatially autocorrelated selection explained 9.3%. Together, biotic selection explained 16% of the variance in population trait means. Most biotic selection regimes were spatially autocorrelated. Hence, most populations receive gene flow from populations facing similar selection, which could allow for local adaptation despite moderate gene flow. Gene flow constrained adaptation in studies conducted at finer spatial scales as expected, but this effect was often confounded with spatially autocorrelated selection. Results indicate that traits involved in species interactions might often evolve across landscapes, especially when biotic selection is spatially autocorrelated. The frequent evolution of species interactions suggests that evolutionary processes might often influence community ecology.