Author(s): Westley PA, Schindler DE, Quinn TP, Ruggerone GT, Hilborn R
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Abstract The metacommunity concept has recently been described to account for the roles of dispersal in regulating community structure. Despite its strong theoretical basis, there exist few large-scale and long-term examples of its applicability in aquatic ecosystems. In this study we used a long-term dataset (1961-2007) on the relative abundances of the dominant limnetic fishes from two interconnected lakes to investigate the synergistic effects of naturally declining lake volume (approximately 50\% in 50 years), climate variation, fishery management, and dispersal on community composition. We found a marked shift in fish community composition and variability during a period of rapid natural habitat change; however, the change was most apparent in the downstream, more stable lake of the system rather than at the site of disturbance. Multivariate analysis suggested significant shifts in community composition and variability in the downstream lake. Results indicated that the community composition in both lakes was best explained by habitat loss in the upper watershed and the number of spawning adult sockeye salmon the previous year (reflecting both natural processes and commercial fishing). Furthermore, communities exhibited site-specific responses to climatic conditions (e.g., index of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation), whereby the upper lake responded to climate within a given year and with a 1-year time lag, whereas the downstream community responded only with a 1-year lag. We attribute this difference largely to downstream dispersal and recruitment of fish from the upper lake. Thus, we suggest that the interconnected nature of the communities in this system provides a useful and large-scale example of the metacommunity concept, whereby the effects of environmental disturbance on community structure ultimately depend on the effects of these disturbances on dispersal among ecosystems.
This article was published in Oecologia
and referenced in Hydrology: Current Research