Effects of dispersal mode on the environmental and spatial correlates of nestedness and species turnover in pond communities

Advances in metacommunity theory have made a significant contribution to understanding the drivers of variation in biological communities. However, there has been limited empirical research exploring the expression of metacommunity theory for two fundamental components of beta diversity: nestedness and species turnover. In this paper, we examine the influence of local environmental and a range of spatial variables (hydrological connectivity, proximity and overall spatial structure) on total beta diversity and the nestedness and turnover components of beta diversity for the entire macroinvertebrate community and active and passively dispersing taxa within pond habitats. High beta diversity almost entirely reflects patterns of species turnover (replacement) rather than nestedness (differences in species richness) in our dataset. Local environmental variables were the main drivers of total beta diversity, nestedness and turnover when the entire community was considered and for both active and passively dispersing taxa. The influence of spatial processes on passively dispersing composition, total beta diversity and nestedness was significantly greater than for actively dispersing taxa. Our results suggest that species sorting (local environmental variables) operating through niche processes was the primary mechanism driving total beta diversity, nestedness and turnover for the entire community and active and passively dispersing taxa. In contrast, spatial factors (hydrological connectivity, proximity and spatial eigenvectors) only exerted a secondary influence on the nestedness and turnover components of beta diversity.