, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 163-176
Date: 03 Mar 2013

Shallow lake sediments provide evidence for metapopulation dynamics: a pilot study

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The aim of this pilot study is to test the hypotheses that sediment cores can provide evidence for metapopulation dynamics and that these can be linked with site characteristics. We focus on temporal patterns of incidence and abundance of overwintering stages (statoblasts) produced by the freshwater bryozoan Cristatella mucedo, an organism characterised by a metapopulation ecology, in sediment cores retrieved from 18 UK lakes. Runs and goodness-of-fit tests provided evidence for population instability, periods of low abundance and absence, and of asynchrony—all signatures of metapopulation dynamics. Further hypothesis testing indicated that extinction risk is greater in more isolated sites and in sites of smaller size. Absence of statoblasts from the top sections of spatially separated, replicate cores provided independent evidence for extinction in one site. Our study demonstrates how the abundances of sedimentary-bound propagules may be analysed initially for metapopulation dynamics and subsequently how this may lead to working hypotheses regarding the drivers of such dynamics. The sediment archive represents a unique historical record whose potential for characterising metapopulation dynamics has previously been untapped but is broadly relevant for understanding the population biology of freshwater organisms.