Dormancy in metacommunities

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Description: Although metacommunity ecology has improved our understanding of how dispersal affects community structure and dynamics across spatial scales, it has yet to adequately account for dormancy. Dormancy is a reversible state of reduced metabolic activity that enables temporal dispersal within the metacommunity. Dormancy is also a metacommunity-level process because it can covary with spatial dispersal and affect diversity across spatial scales. We develop a framework to integrate dispersal and dormancy, focusing on the covariation they exhibit, to predict how dormancy modifies the importance of species interactions, dispersal, and historical contingencies in metacommunities. We examine case studies of microcrustaceans in ephemeral ponds, where dormancy is integral to metacommunity dynamics. We analyze traits of bromeliad-dwelling invertebrates and identify constraints on dispersal and dormancy strategies. Using simulations, we demonstrate that dormancy can alter classic metacommunity patterns of diversity in ways that depend on dispersal–dormancy covariation and spatiotemporal environmental variability. We propose that dormancy may also facilitate evolution-mediated priority effects if locally adapted seed banks prevent colonization by more dispersal-limited species. We present theoretically and empirically testable predictions for other possible ecological and evolutionary implications of dormancy in metacommunities, some of which may fundamentally alter our understanding of metacommunity ecology.

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