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Do large-scale associations in birds imply biotic interactions or environmental filtering?

Citation

Elo, Merja et al. (2022), Do large-scale associations in birds imply biotic interactions or environmental filtering? , Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.ht76hdrjh

Abstract

Aim: There has been a wide interest in the effect of biotic interactions on species’ occurrences and abundances at large spatial scales, coupled with a vast development of the statistical methods to study them. Still, the evidence whether the effects of within-trophic level biotic interactions (e.g. competition and heterospecific attraction) are discernible beyond local scales remains inconsistent. Here, we present a novel hypothesis-testing framework based on joint dynamic species distribution models (JDSDMs) and functional trait similarity to dissect between environmental filtering and biotic interactions.  

Location: France and Finland. 

Taxon: Birds. 

Methods: We estimated species-to-species associations within a trophic level, independent of the main environmental variables (mean temperature and total precipitation) for common species at large spatial scale with joint dynamic species distribution models (VAST). We created hypotheses based on species’ functionality (morphological and/or diet dissimilarity) and habitat preferences about the sign and strength of the pairwise spatio-temporal associations to estimate the extent to which they result from biotic interactions (competition, heterospecific attraction) and/or environmental filtering.  

Results: Spatio-temporal associations were mostly positive (80%), followed by random (15%), and only 5% were negative. Negative spatio-temporal associations in different communities were due to a few species when they existed. The relationship between spatio-temporal association and functional dissimilarity among species was negative, which fulfills the predictions of both environmental filtering and heterospecific attraction. 

Main conclusions: We showed that processes leading to species aggregation (mixture between environmental filtering and heterospecific attraction) seem to dominate assembly rules, and we did not find evidence for competition. Altogether, hypothesis-testing framework based on joint dynamic species distribution models and functional trait similarity is beneficial in ecological interpretation of species-to-species associations from the long-term large-scale data. 

Funding

Kone Foundation

Kvantum Institute at University of Oulu

Unit of Ecology and Genetics at University of Oulu

North Ostrobothnia Regional Fund at the Finnish Cultural Foundation

Emil Aaltonen Foundation

Academy of Finland, Award: 314833

Academy of Finland, Award: 319898

Academy of Finland, Award: 323527