The role of dispersal mode and habitat specialization for metacommunity structure of shallow beach invertebrates

I.F. Rodil, Paloma Lucena-Moya, Henri Matias Jokinen, Victoria Ollus, Håkan Wennhage, Anna Pia Maria Villnäs, Alf Norkko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Metacommunity ecology recognizes the interplay between local and regional patterns in contributing to spatial variation in community structure. In aquatic systems, the relative importance of such patterns depends mainly on the potential connectivity of the specific system. Thus, connectivity is expected to increase in relation to the degree of water movement, and to depend on the specific traits of the study organism. We examined the role of environmental and spatial factors in structuring benthic communities from a highly connected shallow beach network using a metacommunity approach. Both factors contributed to a varying degree to the structure of the local communities suggesting that environmental filters and dispersal-related mechanisms played key roles in determining abundance patterns. We categorized benthic taxa according to their dispersal mode (passive vs. active) and habitat specialization (generalist vs. specialist) to understand the relative importance of environment and dispersal related processes for shallow beach metacommunities. Passive dispersers were predicted by a combination of environmental and spatial factors, whereas active dispersers were not spatially structured and responded only to local environmental factors. Generalists were predicted primarily by spatial factors, while specialists were only predicted by local environmental factors. The results suggest that the role of the spatial component in metacommunity organization is greater in open coastal waters, such as shallow beaches, compared to less-connected environmentally controlled aquatic systems. Our results also reveal a strong environmental role in structuring the benthic metacommunity of shallow beaches. Specifically, we highlight the sensitivity of shallow beach macrofauna to environmental factors related to eutrophication proxies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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