Metacommunity theory has advanced the understanding of the patterns and processes shaping community structure at multiple scales. Various models have been put forward to explain the relative effects of environmental filtering, dispersal, and species traits on community composition. Here, we focus on complex, three‐dimensional webs of two social and two solitary spider species as habitat patches for associated communities of arthropods in a tropical rainforest in Ecuador. We used variance partitioning, constrained ordination, coherence analyses, and a colonization experiment to assess the role of environmental filtering and dispersal in this system. We found that the composition of communities associated with the four host species was mostly differentiated along two ordination axes, with the first axis roughly corresponding to level of sociality (solitary vs. social) and the other to web size. Associate abundance increased, but their density per unit volume decreased with host web size for all host species. Webs of social spider species had more variable communities and proportionally more aggressive (i.e., predatory) associates. After rarefaction to control for larger samples in larger webs, only one of the species showed a significant increase of species richness as a function of web size. The relatively quick colonization of experimentally established webs suggests high dispersal of more generalist species, but their lower proportion in older webs provides some evidence of a colonization–competition trade‐off at longer temporal scales. The distinctness of the communities associated with the four host species, and the eventual change in proportion of associates in newly founded vs. old webs, despite high dispersal, is consistent with environmental filtering and species traits playing a major role in determining patterns of species distribution in this system.
Ecosphere – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ; ; ;
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