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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 569:15-23 (2017)  -  DOI:

Post-settlement dispersal ability determines structure of marine benthic metacommunities

Gustavo M. Martins1,2,*, Miguel G. Matias3,4, Isadora Moniz2, Carlos Rius1, Josephine Sanderson1, Ana I. Neto1, Stuart R. Jenkins

1CE3C - Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes/Azorean Biodiversity Group, Universidade dos Açores, 9501-801 Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal
2Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIIMAR/CIMAR), Universidade do Porto, 4050-123 Porto, Portugal
3InBio/CIBIO, University of Évora, Largo dos Colegiais, 7000 Évora, Portugal
4Department of Biogeography and Global Change, National Museum of Natural Sciences, CSIC, 28006 Madrid, Spain
5School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, Menai Bridge, Anglesey LL59 5AB, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Changes in natural habitats and the community response to such changes have important impacts on the distribution of diversity. Theoretical advances have highlighted the importance of including dispersal traits to predict responses to habitat loss, but empirical evidence is lacking. We investigated the effect of metacommunity size (by manipulating the number of habitat patches) and isolation (by manipulating proximity to reefs) in structuring marine macrofaunal communities. The overall response of macrofauna to changes in habitat size and proximity to reefs varied according to the species’ ability to disperse after settlement. Whilst the richness of species with sessile adult stages responded to proximity to reefs in which metacommunities were deployed, species with motile adult stages responded to metacommunity size. Results were similar at both the patch and metacommunity scales. A subsequent experiment showed that colonisation had an impact on the macrofaunal responses to reef proximity, which persisted throughout the community assembly process. The inclusion of simple functional traits (i.e. post-settlement dispersal) allows a better understanding of species responses to the spatial configuration of habitats at multiple ecological scales, which may be key for predicting the consequences of habitat loss.

KEY WORDS: Biological traits · Community assembly · Experimental habitats · Habitat size · Isolation · Scale

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Cite this article as: Martins GM, Matias MG, Moniz I, Rius C, Sanderson J, Neto AI, Jenkins SR (2017) Post-settlement dispersal ability determines structure of marine benthic metacommunities. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 569:15-23.

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