Dissecting the assembly process of benthic communities from Neotropical streams

I used the metacommunity framework to dissect the relative influences of dispersal (in ecological and evolutionary timeframes), selection (driven by abiotic factors) and ecological drift on the assembly process of freshwater benthic communities. The study was carried out at 26-32 different stream segments within an area of about 40,000km2, in the Colombian Orinoco. The area encompasses an elevation gradient from 3400 to 300m a.s.l. and includes a heterogeneous assembly of ecoregions and landscapes. By using a pattern-matching approach, I provide evidences supporting that dispersal, selection and drift are directly involved in the assembly of freshwater benthic communities. My findings indicate that one or more events of dispersal limitation (i.e. allopatric isolation) in an evolutionary timeframe shaped distinct pools of taxa in the Orinoco basin. The extent of these pools partially matches the distribution of the ecoregions, suggesting that those events molding the riverscapes and the vegetation structure similarly affect the diversity and distribution of benthic species. These findings have implications for both basic and applied research in the disciplines of metacommunity and freshwater ecology as well as of conservation and biogeography ​
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