COS 101-2 - Multi-scale responses to warming in an experimental metacommunity

Wednesday, August 9, 2017: 1:50 PM
D129-130, Oregon Convention Center
Tess N. Grainger and Benjamin Gilbert, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

In metacommunities, diversity is the product of species interactions at the local scale and dispersal between habitat patches at the regional scale. Although warming can alter both of these processes, the combined effects of warming at these two metacommunity scales remains uncertain. To determine the independent and interactive effects of warming-induced changes to local species interactions and dispersal, we constructed experimental metacommunities consisting of enclosed milkweed patches seeded with five herbivorous milkweed specialist insect species. We treated metacommunities with two levels of warming (unwarmed and warmed) and three levels of connectivity (isolated, low connectivity, high connectivity). Based on metabolic theory, we predicted that if plant resources were limited, warming would accelerate resource drawdown, causing local insect declines and increasing both insect dispersal and the importance of connectivity to neighboring patches for insect persistence. Conversely, given abundant resources, warming could have positive local effects on insects, and the risk of traversing a corridor to reach a neighboring patch could outweigh the benefits of additional resources.


We found support for the latter scenario. Neither resource drawdown nor the weak insect-insect associations in our system were affected by warming, and most insect species did better locally in warmed conditions and had dispersal responses that were unchanged or indirectly affected by warming. Regionally, dispersal across the matrix posed a species-specific risk that led to declines in two species in connected metacommunities. Combined, this scaled up to cause an interactive effect of warming and connectivity on diversity at the regional scale, with unwarmed metacommunities with low connectivity incurring the most rapid declines in diversity. Overall, this study demonstrates the importance of integrating the complex outcomes of species interactions and spatial structure in understanding community response to climate change.