How individual links affect network stability in a large-scale, heterogeneous metacommunity

Jedediah F. Brodie, Jayasilan Mohd-Azlan, Jessica K. Schnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Elucidating how dispersal and landscape connectivity influence metacommunity stability will shed light on natural processes structuring ecosystems and help prioritize conservation actions in an increasingly fragmented world. Much of the theoretical and mathematical development of the metacommunity concept has been based on simplified experimental systems or simulated data. We still have limited understanding of how variation in the habitat matrix and species-specific differences in dispersal ability contribute to metacommunity dynamics in heterogeneous landscapes. We model a metacommunity of rainforest mammals in Borneo, a tropical biodiversity hotspot, where protected areas are increasingly isolated by ongoing habitat disturbance and loss. We employ a combination of hierarchical models of local abundance, circuit-theory-based dispersal analysis, and metapopulation models. Our goal was to understand which landscape links were the most important to metapopulation persistence and metacommunity stability. Links were particularly important if they were short and connected two large patches. This was partly because only the very shortest links could be traversed by poorly dispersing species, including small herbivores such as chevrotains (Tragulus spp.) and porcupines. Links that join large patches into a "super-patch" may also promote island-mainland rather than Levins-type metapopulation dynamics for good dispersers, particularly large carnivores such as clouded leopards (Neofelis diardi) and sun bears (Helarctos malayanus), reducing metapopulation extinction risk and thereby enhancing metacommunity stability. Link importance to metacommunity stability was highly correlated between heterogeneous and homogeneous landscapes. But link importance to metapopulation capacity varied strongly across species, and the correlation between heterogeneous and homogeneous landscape matrix scenarios was low for poorly dispersing taxa. This suggests that the environmental conditions in the area between habitat patches, the landscape matrix, is important for assessing certain individual species but less so for understanding the stability of the entire metacommunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1658-1667
Number of pages10
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Biodiversity hotspot
  • Borneo
  • Camera trap
  • Circuitscape
  • Connectivity
  • Dispersal
  • Fragmentation
  • Habitat corridors
  • Metapopulation capacity
  • Network
  • Protected areas


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