Metacommunity versus Biogeography: A Case Study of Two Groups of Neotropical Vegetation-Dwelling Arthropods


Biogeography and metacommunity ecology provide two different perspectives on species diversity. Both are spatial in nature but their spatial scales do not necessarily match. With recent boom of metacommunity studies, we see an increasing need for clear discrimination of spatial scales relevant for both perspectives. This discrimination is a necessary prerequisite for improved understanding of ecological phenomena across scales. Here we provide a case study to illustrate some spatial scale-dependent concepts in recent metacommunity studies and identify potential pitfalls. We presented here the diversity patterns of Neotropical lepidopterans and spiders viewed both from metacommunity and biogeographical perspectives. Specifically, we investigated how the relative importance of niche- and dispersal-based processes for community assembly change at two spatial scales: metacommunity scale, i.e. within a locality, and biogeographical scale, i.e. among localities widely scattered along a macroclimatic gradient. As expected, niche-based processes dominated the community assembly at metacommunity scale, while dispersal-based processes played a major role at biogeographical scale for both taxonomical groups. However, we also observed small but significant spatial effects at metacommunity scale and environmental effects at biogeographical scale. We also observed differences in diversity patterns between the two taxonomical groups corresponding to differences in their dispersal modes. Our results thus support the idea of continuity of processes interactively shaping diversity patterns across scales and emphasize the necessity of integration of metacommunity and biogeographical perspectives.