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The role of environmental and spatial processes in structuring native and non-native fish communities across thousands of lakes


  • Sapna Sharma,

  • Pierre Legendre,

  • Miquel De Cáceres,

  • Daniel Boisclair

S. Sharma (, P. Legendre, M. De Cáceres and D. Boisclair, Dépt des Sciences Biologiques, Univ. de Montréal, C.P. 6128 succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, QC H3C 3J7, Canada. (Present address of SS: Center for Limnology, 680 N. Park Street, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.)


Quantifying the role of spatial patterns is an important goal in ecology to further understand patterns of community composition. We quantified the relative role of environmental conditions and regional spatial patterns that could be produced by environmental filtering and dispersal limitation on fish community composition for thousands of lakes. A database was assembled on fish community composition, lake morphology, water quality, climatic conditions, and hydrological connectivity for 9885 lakes in Ontario, Canada. We utilized a variation partitioning approach in conjunction with Moran's Eigenvector Maps (MEM) and Asymmetric Eigenvector Maps (AEM) to model spatial patterns that could be produced by human-mediated and natural modes of dispersal. Across 9885 lakes and 100 fish species, environmental factors and spatial structure explained approximately 19% of the variation in fish community composition. Examining the proportional role of spatial structure and environmental conditions revealed that as much as 90% of the explained variation in native species assemblage composition is governed by environmental conditions. Conversely on average, 67% of the explained variation in non-native assemblage composition can be related to human-mediated dispersal. This study highlights the importance of including spatial structure and environmental conditions when explaining patterns of community composition to better discriminate between the ecological processes that underlie biogeographical patterns of communities composed of native and non-native fish species.