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Ecological disturbances, Zooplankton, Lakes, Animal ecology, Biotic communities, Predation (Biology)


In the event of an environmental disturbance, dispersal of native taxa may provide species and genetic diversity to ecosystems, increasing the likelihood that there will be species and genotypes present that are less vulnerable to the disturbance. This may allow communities to maintain functioning during a disturbance and may be particularly important when the perturbation is novel to the system, such as the establishment of an invasive species. We examined how dispersal of native species may influence crustacean zooplankton communities in freshwater lakes invaded by the invertebrate predator, Bythotrephes longimanus. Using large enclosures, we experimentally tested the effect of dispersal on zooplankton community abundance, richness, and composition in (1) a community invaded by Bythotrephes, (2) the same community with the invader removed, and (3) a community that was never invaded. Dispersal increased zooplankton community abundance and richness; however, these effects were usually only significant in the invader-removed treatment. Dispersal tended to make the invader-removed communities more similar to never-invaded communities in abundance, richness, and composition. Dispersal had little effect on zooplankton abundance in the invaded community; however, richness significantly increased, and the community composition changed to resemble a never-invaded community by the end of the experiment. Our results have implications for understanding the role of dispersal during transitory states in communities. Dispersal of native taxa may be particularly important during the period between the arrival and broad-scale establishment of Bythotrephes, as dispersal through space or time (i.e., from resting eggs) may rapidly increase zooplankton abundance when the invader is absent or in low abundances. Overall, our results suggest that communities with strong local predatory and competitive interactions may be closed to immigration from colonists, but that invasive species may alter the conditions under which species can establish. These results have implications for the interaction of native and invasive species across broad spatial scales, as regional dispersal of native taxa may forestall the local extirpation of native species. In particular, transient phases that result from variable persistence of invaders within habitats or across a region may permit native colonists to successfully establish, and thus increase local and regional resistance to future disturbance.


Copyright 2010 by the Ecological Society of America


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