1. Colonisation is a critical ecological process influencing both population and community level dynamics by connecting spatially discrete habitat patches. How communities respond to both natural and anthropogenic disturbances, furthermore, requires a basic understanding of how any environmental change modifies colonisation rates. For example, disturbance-induced shifts in the quantity of forest cover surrounding aquatic habitats have been associated with the distribution and abundance of numerous aquatic taxa. However, the mechanisms generating these broad and repeatable field patterns are unclear.
2. Such patterns of diversity could result from differential spatial mortality post colonisation, or from colonisation alone if species select sites non-randomly along canopy coverage gradients. We examined the colonisation/oviposition dynamics of aquatic beetles in experimental ponds placed under both open and closed forest canopies.
3. Canopy coverage imposed a substantial behavioural filter on the colonisation and reproduction of aquatic beetles representing multiple trophic levels, and resulted in significantly higher abundance, richness, and oviposition activity in open canopy ponds. These patterns strengthened overtime; although early in the experiment, the most abundant beetle had similar abundance in open and closed ponds. However, its abundance subsequently declined and then most other species heavily colonised open canopy ponds.
4. The primary response of many aquatic species to disturbances that generate canopy coverage gradients surrounding aquatic ecosystems is behavioural. The magnitude of the colonisation responses reported here rivals, if not exceeds, those produced by predators, suggesting that aquatic landscapes are behaviourally assessed and partitioned across multiple environmental gradients. The community level structure produced solely by selective colonisation, is predicted to strongly modify how patch area and isolation affect colonisation rates and the degree to which communities are linked by the flux of individuals and species.
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Original Publication Citation
Binckley, C. A., & Resetarits, W. J. (2009). Spatial and temporal dynamics of habitat selection across canopy gradients generates patterns of species richness and composition in aquatic beetles. Ecological Entomology, 34(4), 457-465. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2311.2008.01069.x
Binkley, Christopher A. and Resetarits, William J. Jr., "Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Habitat Selection Across Canopy Gradients Generates Patterns of Species Richness and Composition in Aquatic Beetles" (2009). Biological Sciences Faculty Publications. 286.