Metacommunity ecology links smaller-scale processes that have been the provenance of population and community ecology – such as birth-death processes, species interactions, selection, and stochasticity – with larger-scale issues such as dispersal and habitat heterogeneity. Until now, the field has focused on evaluating the relative importance of distinct processes, with niche-based environmental sorting on one side and neutral-based ecological drift and dispersal limitation on the other. Metacommunity Ecology moves beyond these artificial categorizations, showing how environmental sorting, dispersal, ecological drift, and other processes influence metacommunity structure simultaneously.
Mathew Leibold and Jonathan Chase argue that the relative importance of these processes depends on the characteristics of the organisms, the strengths and types of their interactions, the degree of habitat heterogeneity, the rates of dispersal, and the scale at which the system is observed. Using this synthetic perspective, they explore metacommunity patterns in time and space, including patterns of coexistence, distribution, and diversity. Leibold and Chase demonstrate how these processes and patterns are altered by micro- and macroevolution, traits and phylogenetic relationships, and food web interactions. They then use this scale-explicit perspective to illustrate how metacommunity processes are essential for understanding macroecological and biogeographical patterns as well as ecosystem-level processes.
Moving seamlessly across scales and subdisciplines, Metacommunity Ecology is an invaluable reference, one that offers a more integrated approach to ecological patterns and processes.
"Leibold and Chase have written an authoritative and accessible account of recent research on how spatially organized processes shape patterns of biological diversity over the ecological landscape. This book will be the springboard for future work in this area."
– Robert E. Ricklefs, University of Missouri, St. Louis
"Current thinking in ecology is a disorganized soup of ideas, from dispersal and spatial heterogeneity to temporal change, species sorting, and evolution. This book impressively pulls these disparate threads into a powerful and coherent framework based on metacommunities. Its next-generation metacommunity framework could well serve as a launching pad for the next decade of ecology."
– Brian McGill, University of Maine
"In this magisterial book, Leibold and Chase provide a conceptually coherent synthesis of the burgeoning field of metacommunity ecology. In addition to deftly synthesizing a sprawling literature on the role of dispersal limitation, drift, and interactions in metacommunities, they highlight the importance of linking metacommunity processes to evolutionary dynamics and ecosystem function. All ecologists will profit from careful reading of this fine and timely contribution."
– Robert Holt, University of Florida
"A highly significant contribution. Leibold and Chase provide an encompassing and critical overview of the current state of metacommunity ecology and discuss novel approaches, novel perspectives, and applications that contribute to a much broader framework. I learned a lot from this book."
– Luc De Meester, University of Leuven
"Interesting and informative. Leibold and Chase have assembled in one volume recent key studies that show how metacommunity ecology is indeed wide-ranging in its scope."
– Tadashi Fukami, Stanford University
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Mathew A. Leibold is professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin. Jonathan M. Chase is professor of biodiversity synthesis at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research. They are the authors of Ecological Niches: Linking Classical and Contemporary Approaches.