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Structure of small tropical islands freshwater fish and crustacean communities: a niche- or dispersal-based process?

Citation

Lagarde, R.; Teichert, N.; Valade, P.; Ponton., D. (2020), Structure of small tropical islands freshwater fish and crustacean communities: a niche- or dispersal-based process?, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.ksn02v72f

Abstract

Determining the relative importance of niche- and dispersal-based processes in the structuring of animal communities is central in ecology. Freshwater fish and crustacean communities of small tropical islands can bring new insights for understanding these processes as all their species present a pelagic larval stage which gives them important dispersal capacities. Consequently, we hypothesized that dispersal-based process maybe preponderant for structuring these communities from the regional- to the local, i.e. survey site, scales. Gradient forest analyses allowed us to model the effect of 12 environmental variables on freshwater taxa abundances in two southwestern Indian Ocean islands: Mayotte (26 taxa) and Reunion (21). A total of 153 surveys in Mayotte and 266 in Reunion were used for building the models. Despite the strong heterogeneity of environmental conditions between the two islands, the main factors structuring freshwater fish and crustacean communities in both islands were the elevation and the slope of the sites. The observed structure appeared more pronounced for predatory species than for primary consumers and omnivores. As predators generally have limited locomotor capacities, it is concluded that dispersal-based process structures these communities not only at large geographical scales but also at the intra-watershed scale, by limiting the inland penetration (or dispersion) of species in relation to their locomotor capacities. However, more knowledge concerning ecological traits and taxonomic status of many species is needed to confirm this assumption.