Posted by: oikosasa | October 11, 2013

Where am I and Why?

In the Early view Oikos paper “Where am I and Why? Synthesizing range biology and the eco-evolutionary dynamics of dispersal”, Alexander Kubisch, Robert D. Holt, Hans Joachim Poethke and Emanuel A. Fronhofer investigate the emergence of species’ geographic ranges and the many different forces acting on it. Here is their summary:

The distribution of species in space and time is one of the oldest puzzles in ecology. Already Charles Darwin pointed this out over 150 years ago, when he asked: “Who can explain why one species ranges widely and is very numerous, and why another allied species has a narrow range and is rare?” (Darwin 1859). And still, although much research has been invested into that topic since the times of Darwin, we still do not comprehensively understand the formation of any given species’ range.

In this paper we provide an overview of the manifold eco-evolutionary forces, which – in a metapopulation context – determine the formation of species’ ranges. Based on the idea that colonizations and local extinctions are the crucial determinants of an emerging range limit, we highlight the importance of dispersal evolution in this context. It is well known that dispersal of species is highly plastic and subject to strong evolutionary changes. However, this fact is still often ignored when distributions of species are investigated. To clarify the influences of dispersal on range formation, we organize relevant forces acting on all hierarchical levels, ranging from the landscape via genes, individuals and populations to communities, in a framework. In combination with novel simulation results this synthesis brings together the multiple interactions between these factors and forces, which may lead to high levels of complexity and non-linearity.

This contribution will build the core of an upcoming virtual special issue of Oikos, in which a compilation of studies on several aspects affecting range formation and spatial ecology will highlight and summarize the described complexities and non-linearities, which challenge our understanding of species’ distributions. Synthesizing the factors and forces affecting range formation and highlighting the importance of dispersal evolution will surely prove to be helpful in advancing our knowledge and mechanistic understanding of species’ geographic ranges.


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