Nonhierarchical dispersal promotes stability and resilience in a tritrophic metacommunity


Community interactions (e.g., predation, competition) can be characterized by two factors: their strengths and how they are structured between and within species. Both factors play a role in determining community dynamics. In addition to trophic interactions, dispersal acts as an interaction between separate populations. As with other interactions, the structure of dispersal can affect the stability of a system. However, the primary structure that has been studied in consumer-resource models has been hierarchical dispersal, where between-patch dispersal rates increase with trophic level. Here we use analytical, numerical, and simulation approaches on a two-patch, three-species metacommunity model to investigate the relationship between structure and community stability and resilience. We show that metacommunity stability is greater in systems with both weak and strong dispersal rates. Our system is stabilized by the formation of patterns when predators disperse frequently and herbivores disperse rarely, and via asynchrony when both predators and herbivores disperse infrequently. Our results show how interaction strengths within both trophic and spatial networks shape metacommunity stability.

In: The American Naturalist, (187), 5, pp. E116–E128,,