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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 396:293-306 (2009)  -  DOI:

Life history mediates large-scale population ecology in marine benthic taxa

Thomas J. Webb1,*, Elizabeth H. M. Tyler1, Paul J. Somerfield2

1Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK
2Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, The Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK

ABSTRACT: Progress in marine biodiversity research requires a suite of approaches to understand processes occurring across a broad range of spatial scales. Macroecology provides a useful framework for understanding how local- and regional-scale processes interact, and comparative analyses of residual variation around macroecological relationships offer a promising route to better understand how the biological and ecological traits of individual species influence large-scale patterns in diversity. We combined data on the distribution and abundance of 575 North Sea macrobenthic species with a new species-level biological traits database to determine the effects of life history on the relationship between local population density and regional occupancy. We found the strongest effects were for body size: for a given local population density, larger-bodied species tended to be more widely distributed than smaller-bodied species (controlling for taxonomic affinities between species). This indicates a broad trend for large-bodied species to have relatively less aggregated distributions than smaller-bodied species, and is the first demonstration in marine systems that abundance–occupancy relationships are mediated by body size. We suggest that this effect is most likely due to the interrelationships between body size and other life-history traits that influence the large-scale dispersal of individuals, in particular, mode of larval development and adult migratory habit. The ability of a single life-history trait to capture this variation in spatial structure suggests that our approach could relatively easily be applied to more extensive marine data sets in the future.

KEY WORDS: Macroecology · Body size · Abundance–occupancy relationships · Comparative methods · Biological traits

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Cite this article as: Webb TJ, Tyler EHM, Somerfield PJ (2009) Life history mediates large-scale population ecology in marine benthic taxa. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 396:293-306.

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