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Hydrological connectivity structures concordant plant and animal assemblages according to niche rather than dispersal processes


Warfe, DM and Pettit, NE and Magierowski, RH and Pusey, BJ and Davies, PM and Douglas, MM and Bunn, SE, Hydrological connectivity structures concordant plant and animal assemblages according to niche rather than dispersal processes, Freshwater Biology, 58, (2) pp. 292-305. ISSN 0046-5070 (2013) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

DOI: doi:10.1111/fwb.12058


1. Understanding the processes that structure community assembly across landscapes is fundamental to ecology and for predicting and managing the consequences of anthropogenically induced changes to ecosystems.

2. We assessed the community similarity of fish, macroinvertebrate and vegetation communities against geographic distances ranging from 4 to 480 km (i.e. distance–decay relationships) to determine the balance between local environmental factors and regional dispersal processes, and thus whether species-sorting (niche processes) or dispersal limitation (neutral processes) was more important in structuring these assemblages in Australia’s wet-dry tropics. We investigated whether the balance between niche and dispersal processes depended on the degree of hydrological connectivity, predicting that dispersal processes would be more important at connected sites, and also whether there was spatial concordance among these three assemblage types.

3. There was significant but weak spatial concordance among the study communities, suggesting limited potential for surrogacy among them. Distance–decay in community similarity was not observed for any study assemblage at perennial sites, suggesting dispersal was not limiting and assemblages were structured more strongly by local niche processes at these connected sites. At intermittent sites, weak distance–decay relationships for each assemblage type were confounded by significant relationships with environmental dissimilarity, suggesting that dispersal limitation contributed, albeit weakly, to niche processes in structuring our three study assemblages at disconnected sites.

4. Two environmental factors, flow regime and channel width, explained significant proportions of variation in all three assemblages, potentially contributing to the observed spatial concordance between them and representing local environmental gradients along which these communities re-assemble after the wet season, according to niche rather than dispersal processes.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:community assembly, dispersal limitation, multiple assemblages, spatial concordance, tropical rivers
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Coastal and estuarine systems and management
Objective Field:Coastal or estuarine biodiversity
UTAS Author:Warfe, DM (Dr Danielle Warfe)
UTAS Author:Magierowski, RH (Dr Regina Magierowski)
ID Code:81097
Year Published:2013
Web of Science® Times Cited:45
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2012-11-22
Last Modified:2015-03-18

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