Get access

Metacommunity diversity depends on connectivity and patch arrangement in heterogeneous habitat networks


  • Chelsea Chisholm,

  • Zoë Lindo,

  • Andrew Gonzalez

C. Chisholm, Z. Lindo ( and A. Gonzalez, Dept of Biology, McGill Univ., 1205 Docteur Penfield, Montreal, QC H3A 1B1, Canada.


Connectivity is critical to the maintenance of biodiversity in fragmented landscapes, but its effects differ depending on the arrangement of linkages within a habitat network. Additionally, heterogeneity in habitat quality within the habitat network can alter patterns of diversity at local and regional scales in the metacommunity. Using a controlled experiment we examined the interactive effects of habitat connectivity, network form (linear vs square), and habitat patch quality on a moss-inhabiting microarthropod community. We fragmented moss habitat while controlling for habitat loss, and altered habitat patch quality by regulating moisture conditions in landscapes differing in patch arrangement. Habitat patch quality had a significant effect on patterns of species richness, extinction, abundance and biomass. The effects of network form on diversity were strongest in heterogeneous landscapes. Gamma and beta diversity were greatest in continuous and linear landscapes. However, linear habitat networks showed marked patch specific edge effects that were detrimental to diversity under heterogeneous conditions. We provide direct evidence that habitat network structure impacts species community properties through mass effects, that are most evident when heterogeneity in habitat patch quality is present within the network. We conclude that habitat quality at the individual patch level and the distribution of high-quality habitat within the network are important factors affecting biodiversity in metacommunities.