Final Published Version
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Global loss of biodiversity and its associated ecosystem services is occurring at an alarming rate and is predicted to accelerate in the future. Metacommunity theory provides a framework to investigate multi-scale processes that drive change in biodiversity across space and time. Short-term ecological studies across space have progressed our understanding of biodiversity through a metacommunity lens, however, such snapshots in time have been limited in their ability to explain which processes, at which scales, generate observed spatial patterns. Temporal dynamics of metacommunities have been understudied, and large gaps in theory and empirical data have hindered progress in our understanding of underlying metacommunity processes that give rise to biodiversity patterns. Fortunately, we are at an important point in the history of ecology, where long-term studies with cross-scale spatial replication provide a means to gain a deeper understanding of the multiscale processes driving biodiversity patterns in time and space to inform metacommunity theory. The maturation of coordinated research and observation networks, such as the United States Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, provides an opportunity to advance explanation and prediction of biodiversity change with observational and experimental data at spatial and temporal scales greater than any single research group could accomplish. Synthesis of LTER network community datasets illustrates that long-term studies with spatial replication present an under-utilized resource for advancing spatio-temporal metacommunity research. We identify challenges towards synthesizing these data and present recommendations for addressing these challenges. We conclude with insights about how future monitoring efforts by coordinated research and observation networks could further the development of metacommunity theory and its applications aimed at improving conservation efforts.
Copyright © 2021 Record, Voelker, Zarnetske, Wisnoski, Tonkin, Swan, Marazzi, Lany, Lamy, Compagnoni, Castorani, Andrade and Sokol. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Record S., Voelker N.M., Zarnetske P.L., Wisnoski N.I., Tonkin J.D., Swan C., Marazzi L., Lany N., Lamy T., Compagnoni A., Castorani M.C.N., Andrade R. and Sokol E.R.. 2021. "Novel Insights to Be Gained From Applying Metacommunity Theory to Long-Term, Spatially Replicated Biodiversity Data." Front. Ecol. Evol. 8:612794.
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