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Data from: Dispersal and diversity in experimental metacommunities: linking theory and practice


Grainger, Tess Nahanni; Gilbert, Benjamin (2016), Data from: Dispersal and diversity in experimental metacommunities: linking theory and practice, Dryad, Dataset,


There has been a recent rise in the number of experiments investigating the effect of dispersal on diversity, with many of the predictions for these tests derived from metacommunity theory. Despite the promise of linking observed relationships between dispersal and diversity to underlying metacommunity processes, empirical studies have faced challenges in providing robust tests of theory. We review experimental studies that have tested how dispersal affects metacommunity diversity to determine why shortcomings emerge, and to provide a framework for empirical tests of theory that capture the processes structuring diversity in natural metacommunities. We first summarize recent experimental work to outline trends in results and to highlight common methods that cause a misalignment between empirical studies and the processes described by theory. We then identify the undesired implications of three widely used experimental methods that homogenize metacommunity structure or species traits, and present alternative methods that have been used to successfully integrate experiments and theory in a biologically relevant way. Finally, we present methodological and theoretical insights from three related ecological fields (coexistence, food web and priority effects theory) that, if integrated into metacommunity experiments, could help isolate the independent and joint effects of local interactions and dispersal on diversity, and reveal the mechanisms underlying observed dispersal–diversity patterns. Together, these methods can provide stronger tests of existing theory and stimulate new theoretical explorations.

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