Primate and Nonprimate Mammal Community Assembly: The Influence of Biogeographic Barriers and Spatial Scale
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At least three community assembly processes shape communities: 1) environmental niche-based processes, 2) spatial effects through dispersal limitation, and 3) biogeographic dispersal barriers. Previous studies suggested primate communities were dispersal limited, except in Madagascar, where environmental effects shaped communities. However, previous work did not investigate the role of biogeographic barriers. Further, the relative roles of these processes are potentially specific to taxonomic and/or functional groups owing to a group’s ecological preferences. I aimed to identify to what extent environmental factors, spatial effects, and biogeographic barriers shape patterns of primate and nonprimate community composition, in comparison to terrestrial and arboreal mammal communities in Madagascar. I analyzed occurrence data of nonvolant mammals and site-specific environmental and biogeographic data for 34 sites in Madagascar using principal coordinates of neighbor matrices and variation partitioning to test the relative contribution of environmental, spatial, and biogeographic effects to the patterns of community composition. Environmental and spatial effects almost equally explained nonvolant mammal communities. However, for primate and arboreal mammal communities, especially at broad spatial scales, spatial effects explained more of the variation than environmental effects. By contrast, only environmental effects explained nonprimate and terrestrial mammal distributions. Biogeographic effects were not significant for any community type. The difference between arboreal and terrestrial mammals is perhaps due to functional differences in dispersal ability, which habitat modification and a large impassable agricultural matrix in Madagascar may compound. Future research should consider the influence of functional diversity on patterns of community assembly.
KeywordsBiogeography Community assembly Dispersal Functional group Scale
My sincere thanks go to Rebecca Lewis, Mathew Leibold, Denné Reed, Mariah Hopkins, Tony Di Fiore, and Andrew Barr for comments and helpful advice on the development of my ideas. Thank you to Steve Goodman for invaluable documents on Madagascar’s fauna that supplemented my data. Thank you also to Charlene Nielsen for invaluable ArcGIS and python advice. My gratitude also goes to Jason Kamilar, Lydia Beaudrot, and Kaye Reed for organizing the symposium at the 82nd (2013) Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists on Primate Ecology, and for editing this special issue. Finally, thank you to my two anonymous reviewers and the editors for their insightful comments on the manuscript. An NSERC PGS-D, an AAUW Doctoral Scholarship, and an Explorer’s Club Research Grant supported this research.
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