Metacommunity dynamics of complex life-cycles in exploited seascapes

Vasconcelos, Joana;Riera, Rodrigo;Vahdati Ali V.;Geppi, Eros F.;Sousa, Ricardo;Eguíluz, Victor M.;Pinto, Ana Rita;Melián, Carlos J.
American Naturalist , (2024)

Metacommunity theory provides a framework to understand biodiversity dynamics along biotic, abiotic and connectivity gradients. Many studies have shown the impact of spatial heterogeneity, environmental and biotic factors on species persistence like changes in spatial synchrony and biodiversity patterns using simple life-cycles species as model systems. Yet, the role of complex life-cycles species in exploited metacommunities has been overlooked. Here, we integrate empirical data along exploitation gradients in a complex life-cycle metacommunity dynamics model to explore the role of complex life-cycles on persistence. We contrast theoretical predictions between simple and complex life-cycles species using empirical data from intertidal communities including life-stage dependent dispersal along exploitation gradients. Our results show that complex life-cycle buffer extinction probability in comparison to simple life-cycles. This difference is particularly severe the stronger the competition between species in the exploited metacommunity. Our complex life-cycles modeling reproduce the empirical pattern of lower population fluctuations in marine protected areas in comparison to free access areas. We expand the complex life-cycle model to spatially explicit seascapes to show how strong spatial heterogeneity in population fluctuations also buffer extinction probability at metacommunity scale. Taken together, these results show that the interplay among marine connectivity, dispersal heterogeneity and complex life-cycle along exploitation gradients all contribute to buffer extinction probabilities in intertidal metacommunities.

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