Predation inhibits the positive effect of dispersal on intraspecific and interspecific synchrony in pond metacommunities


  • Corresponding Editor: J. C. Trexler.


Recent interest in the ecological drivers of compensatory and synchronous population dynamics has provided an improved yet incomplete understanding of local and regional population oscillations in response to variable environments. Here, we evaluate the effect of dispersal rate and spatiotemporal heterogeneity in predation by the selective planktivore, bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus), on local and regional dynamics of zooplankton in pond metacommunities. A metacommunity consisted of three pond mesocosm communities, one with constant presence of predators, one without predators, and one with alternating presence–absence of predators. The three communities were connected at either no, low (0.7% per day), or high (20% per day) planktonic dispersal. Results demonstrate that heterogeneous predation (1) prevents spatial synchrony among prey populations across local communities, (2) disrupts the synchronous population dynamics within communities produced by dispersal, and (3) induces local compensatory dynamics between species within communities regardless of dispersal rate. Taken together, the results emphasize that spatiotemporal heterogeneity in selective predation can inhibit both intraspecific and interspecific synchrony in metacommunities.