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      Strategies of offspring investment and dispersal in a spatially structured environment: a theoretical study using ants


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          Offspring investment strategies vary markedly between and within taxa, and much of this variation is thought to stem from the trade-off between offspring size and number. While producing larger offspring can increase their competitive ability, this often comes at a cost to their colonization ability. This competition–colonization trade-off (CCTO) is thought to be an important mechanism supporting coexistence of alternative strategies in a wide range of taxa. However, the relative importance of an alternative and possibly synergistic mechanism—spatial structuring of the environment—remains the topic of some debate. In this study, we explore the influence of these mechanisms on metacommunity structure using an agent-based model built around variable life-history traits. Our model combines explicit resource competition and spatial dynamics, allowing us to tease-apart the influence of, and explore the interaction between, the CCTO and the spatial structure of the environment. We test our model using two reproductive strategies which represent extremes of the CCTO and are common in ants.


          Our simulations show that colonisers outperform competitors in environments subject to higher temporal and spatial heterogeneity and are favoured when agents mature late and invest heavily in reproduction, whereas competitors dominate in low-disturbance, high resource environments and when maintenance costs are low. Varying life-history parameters has a marked influence on coexistence conditions and yields evolutionary stable strategies for both modes of reproduction. Nonetheless, we show that these strategies can coexist over a wide range of life-history and environmental parameter values, and that coexistence can in most cases be explained by a CCTO. By explicitly considering space, we are also able to demonstrate the importance of the interaction between dispersal and landscape structure.


          The CCTO permits species employing different reproductive strategies to coexist over a wide range of life-history and environmental parameters, and is likely to be an important factor in structuring ant communities. Our consideration of space highlights the importance of dispersal, which can limit the success of low-dispersers through kin competition, and enhance coexistence conditions for different strategies in spatially structured environments.

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          The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12898-016-0058-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 72

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          Competition and Biodiversity in Spatially Structured Habitats

           David Tilman (1994)
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            Dispersal in stable habitats

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              Community patterns in source-sink metacommunities.

              We present a model of a source-sink competitive metacommunity, defined as a regional set of communities in which local diversity is maintained by dispersal. Although the conditions of local and regional coexistence have been well defined in such systems, no study has attempted to provide clear predictions of classical community-wide patterns. Here we provide predictions for species richness, species relative abundances, and community-level functional properties (productivity and space occupation) at the local and regional scales as functions of the proportion of dispersal between communities. Local (alpha) diversity is maximal at an intermediate level of dispersal, whereas between-community (beta) and regional (gamma) diversity decline as dispersal increases because of increased homogenization of the metacommunity. The relationships between local and regional species richness and the species rank abundance distributions are strongly affected by the level of dispersal. Local productivity and space occupation tend to decline as dispersal increases, resulting in either a hump-shaped or a positive relationship between species richness and productivity, depending on the scale considered (local or regional). These effects of dispersal are buffered by decreasing species dispersal success. Our results provide a niche-based alternative to the recent neutral-metacommunity model and have important implications for conservation biology and landscape management.

                Author and article information

                +81-(0)19-621-6884 , adamcronin@gmail.com
                BMC Ecol
                BMC Ecol
                BMC Ecology
                BioMed Central (London )
                5 February 2016
                5 February 2016
                : 16
                [ ]United Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences, Iwate University, 3-18-8 Ueda, Morioka, 020-8550 Japan
                [ ]UMR 7618 Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences of Paris, Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, 7 quai St Bernard, 75 252 Paris, France
                © Cronin et al. 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100001691, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JP);
                Award ID: 25440187
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                Research Article
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                © The Author(s) 2016


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