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Temporal trajectories in metacommunity structure: Insights from interdisciplinary research in intermittent streams

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Abstract Metacommunity ecology represents a framework for identifying linkages between environmental heterogeneity, spatial processes, and local communities of organisms. Despite advancements in metacommunity theory, there remains a need to understand temporal dynamics of multi‐taxa metacommunities in variable ecosystems such as intermittent streams. We present a review of literature, three recent conceptual models, and a case study regarding metacommunity temporal dynamics in intermittent streams. The literature review revealed that the cumulative number of studies addressing temporal dynamics in aquatic metacommunities steadily increased between 2012 and 2020. Intermittent streams were the fourth‐most commonly studied ecosystem and interdisciplinary studies involving multiple taxa were the third‐most common taxonomic focus. The most common analytical method was variation partitioning, and analysis of beta diversity components surpassed both distance decay and elements of metacommunity structure as the second‐most used method from 2018 to 2020. Three recent conceptual models describing metacommunity dynamics in intermittent streams predict: (a) higher local species richness (i.e., alpha diversity) during rewetting and wet hydrologic phases, (b) stronger effects of dispersal over environmental sorting during the rewetting and wet phases, and (c) emergence of primarily nested structures during the wet hydrologic phase. When tested in a case study focused on microbes, aquatic invertebrates, and fishes, each of these predictions were partially, but not completely supported. Our results reveal expanding interest in temporal aspects of aquatic metacommunity structure and highlight how research in intermittent streams is poised to simultaneously advance basic metacommunity ecology and applied conservation biology through continued refinement of new and existing conceptual syntheses. This article is categorized under: Water and Life > Nature of Freshwater Ecosystems Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
Approaches to quantifying metacommunity structures. (a) Cottenie (2005) developed a decision tree based on variation partitioning that assesses contributions by environment ([E]), space ([S]), pure environment (i.e., conditioned by space, [E|S]), and pure space (i.e., conditioned by environment, [S|E]) components and assigns dominate metacommunity typologies. (b) Presley, Higgins, and Willig (2010) provided a decision tree based on the elements of metacommunity structure (coherence, turnover, and boundary clumping; defined by Leibold & Mikkelson, 2002) that classifies metacommunities according to 14 idealized structures. Two idealized structures characterized by non‐coherence (random and checkerboard) are not shown here. (c) Logue and Lindström (2008) developed a framework used to assign metacommunity structures based on distance decay, or negative correlations between pairwise measures of community similarity, environmental distance (dissimilarity), and geographic distance. (d) Datry, Bonada, and Heino (2016) noted that the two components of beta diversity (i.e., richness difference or nestedness and replacement or turnover) could be used to infer metacommunity structuring mechanisms such that predominantly nested metacommunities emerge from dispersal limitation while metacommunities with greater turnover emerge from environmental filtering
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Temporal trajectories for metacommunity structures for (a) water microbe, invertebrate, and fish metacommunities and (b) cutaneous microbiome metacommunities on the skin surface of five fish species sampled during rewetting (December 2016), wet (April 2017), and drying (October 2017) hydrologic phases. For both panels, gray lines define 12 grid cells representing metacommunity structures described by Presley et al. (2010) and shown in Figure 1b. Arrows and roman numerals next to symbols indicate trajectories among hydrologic phases, starting with the rewetting phase (I), then the wet phase (II), then the drying phase (III)
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Spatiotemporal patterns in (a) water microbe richness, (b) invertebrate family richness, and (c) fish species richness at 18 sites sampled during rewetting (white boxes), wet (gray circles), and drying (dark triangles) hydrologic phases in Little Creek, Tennessee. Sites are arranged from upstream (left) to downstream (right). Invertebrates were only sampled at nine locations. Plots in the right column show means and 95% confidence intervals as well as results from repeated measures analysis of variance and pairwise comparisons (indicated as letters representing differences among means)
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Photographs of three sampling sites during initial dry phase in November 2016 (a, c, e), rewetting phase in December 2016 (b), and wet phase in April 2017 (d, f)
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Study area map illustrating (a) sites (numbered circles) where fishes, invertebrates, and water microbes were sampled during 2016 and 2017. Invertebrates were sampled at a subset of sites (underlined numbers) and five pressure transducers (PD) were deployed to measure water level and temperature fluctuations at perennial (solid lines) and intermittent (dotted lines) reaches of stream. (b) Little Creek is a tributary to Blackburn Fork in the Roaring River basin in (c) north‐central Tennessee in (d) the southeast United States
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Emerging themes in metacommunity structure across hydrologic phases in intermittent streams. (a) Temporal patterns in alpha diversity predicted for prokaryotes (Romaní et al., 2017), aquatic invertebrates (Boulton, 2003), and fishes (Driver & Hoeinghaus, 2016b) across dry, rewetting, wet, and drying hydrologic phases. Note that rates of alpha diversity increase (presumably through recolonization) scale with organism body size. (b) Relative influences by environmental and spatial (i.e., presumably dispersal) variables on metacommunity structure based on the conceptual model developed by Sarremejane et al. (2017). (c) Temporal change in nestedness versus species turnover structures across hydrologic phases based on the conceptual model developed by Datry et al. (2016)
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Results from a review of 103 studies on the topic of temporal dynamics in aquatic metacommunities illustrating (a) the distribution of studies across different taxa, (b) a rise in considerations of temporal dynamics through time, including in intermittent streams, and (c) temporal trajectories of the methods used to quantify metacommunity structure, including variation partitioning (VP), distance decay (DD), elements of metacommunity structure (EMS), and beta diversity components (BD)
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Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
Water and Life > Stresses and Pressures on Ecosystems
Water and Life > Nature of Freshwater Ecosystems

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