Community differentiation on landscapes: drift, migration and speciation
Theories of the differentiation of ecological communities on landscapes have typically not considered evolutionary dynamics. Here we analytically study the expected differentiation among local communities in a large metacommunity, undergoing speciation, ecological drift and intercommunity dispersal, in the context of neutral theory. We demonstrate that heterogeneity in species diversity and abundance arises among communities when local communities are small and intercommunity migration is infrequent. We propose a new measure to describe community differentiation, defined as the average correlation or the average probability (Cst) that two randomly sampled individuals of the same species within local communities are from the same ancestor. The effects of driving forces (migration, mutation, and ecological drift) are incorporated into the two-level hierarchical community structure in a finite island model of neutral communities. Community differentiation can increase the effective metacommunity size or the Hubbell's fundamental species diversity in the metacommunity by a factor (1−Cst)−1. Significant community differentiation arises when Cst≠0. Intercommunity migration promotes species diversity in local communities but reduce species diversity in the metacommunity. In either the finite or infinite island case, one can estimate the number of intercommunity migrants by using multiple local community datasets when the speciation is negligible in the neutral local communities, or by using the metacommunity dataset when the speciation is included in the local neutral communities. These results highlight the significance of the evolutionary mechanisms in generating heterogeneous communities in the absence of complicated ecological processes on large landscapes.