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Species assortment or habitat filtering: a case study of spider communities on lake islands

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Competition theory predicts that species of similar ecological niches are less likely to coexist than species with different niches, a process called species assortment. In contrast, the concept of habitat filtering implies that species with similar ecological requirements should co-occur more often than expected by chance. Here we use environmental and ecological data to assess patterns of co-occurrence of regional communities of spiders distributed across two assemblies of lake islands in northern Poland. We found aggregated and random co-occurrences of species of the same genus and a significant tendency of species segregation across genera. We also found that species of the same genus react similarly to important environmental variables. A comparison of ecological traits of species of the local communities with those expected from a random sample from the regional Polish species pool corroborated partly the habitat filtering hypothesis. On the other hand, we did not find evidence for species assortment. Our results also imply that at least some observed species co-occurrences result from niche differentiation.

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We thank Maciej Kamiński and the Wigry National Park staff for their generous help during field studies. Andreas Hirler helped to compile data of habitat use and phylogeny. Miss Hazel Pearson kindly improved our English. This work was supported by a grant from the Polish Science Committee (PBZ KBN 087 P04 2003 01 20).

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Correspondence to Werner Ulrich.

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Ulrich, W., Hajdamowicz, I., Zalewski, M. et al. Species assortment or habitat filtering: a case study of spider communities on lake islands. Ecol Res 25, 375–381 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-009-0661-y

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  • Araneae
  • Spiders
  • Habitat filtering
  • Phylogenetic signal
  • Species/genus ratios
  • Canonical correspondence analysis
  • Ordination