Dispersal strategies, few dominating or many coexisting: the effect of environmental spatial structure and multiple sources of mortality
Interspecific competition, life history traits, environmental heterogeneity and spatial structure as well as disturbance are known to impact the successful dispersal strategies in metacommunities. However, studies on the direction of impact of those factors on dispersal have yielded contradictory results and often considered only few competing dispersal strategies at the same time. We used a unifying modeling approach to contrast the combined effects of species traits (adult survival, specialization), environmental heterogeneity and structure (spatial autocorrelation, habitat availability) and disturbance on the selected, maintained and coexisting dispersal strategies in heterogeneous metacommunities. Using a negative exponential dispersal kernel, we allowed for variation of both species dispersal distance and dispersal rate. We showed that strong disturbance promotes species with high dispersal abilities, while low local adult survival and habitat availability select against them. Spatial autocorrelation favors species with higher dispersal ability when adult survival and disturbance rate are low, and selects against them in the opposite situation. Interestingly, several dispersal strategies coexist when disturbance and adult survival act in opposition, as for example when strong disturbance regime favors species with high dispersal abilities while low adult survival selects species with low dispersal. Our results unify apparently contradictory previous results and demonstrate that spatial structure, disturbance and adult survival determine the success and diversity of coexisting dispersal strategies in competing metacommunities.