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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2006

Species abundance models and patterns in dragonfly communities: Effects of fish predators

Johansson, Frank; Englund, Goran; Brodin, Tomas; Gardfjell, Hans


We investigated if dragonfly larvae community composition and species abundance curves are sensitive to variation in predation intensity, and whether the fit to a particular niche partitioning model could be used to make inferences about mechanisms structuring communities. The approach taken was to compare communities in lakes either having or lacking fish predation. Dragonfly species classified as active, strongly dominated the dragonfly communities in fishless lakes, and low active species dominated fishless lakes. As activity level is known to correlate with susceptibility to fish predation this indicates that these communities are structured by fish predation. Fitting relative abundance data to five niche partitioning models showed that the same model fitted data from both types of habitats (fish/no fish). This means that the observed differences in relative abundances were substitutive, i.e. the relative abundance of a rank stayed constant, even though the identity of the species having this rank changed. The best fit to data from both types of lakes was found for the random assortment model, which is usually interpreted as an indication that the community is not structured by within-guild interactions. This interpretation for fishless lakes did not seem to agree with other community measures (i.e. lowered diversity and evenness and no relationship between species richness and dragonfly biomass), which indicate that the community is structured by within-guild interactions. Moreover, a detail in the fitting procedure, the number of species included in the analysis, affected which model that fitted data best. Thus, we question if fitting niche partitioning models to data can provide mechanistic understanding of how resources are partitioned in natural communities.

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2006, Volume: 114, number: 1, pages: 27-36
Publisher: WILEY

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