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  • Cited by 7
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: August 2012

16 - A metacommunity perspective on the phylo- and biogeography of small organisms

from Part V - Processes


Dispersal in small organisms

Small organisms rely on passive dispersal for colonising new habitats. Especially when they form resistant stages, passive dispersal does not translate into weak or limited dispersal (Bilton et al., 2001; Havel and Shurin, 2004). The main cost of passive dispersal is that the organism has no control over the trajectory and destination. By having adaptations for specific vectors (e.g. animals instead of wind), directionality and destination can to a certain extent be influenced. In aquatic organisms and plants, there is increasing evidence of widespread and potentially long-distance dispersal by a multitude of vectors, ranging from wind (Vanschoenwinkel et al., 2008a) and birds (Green et al., 2002; Figuerola et al., 2005) to insects (Van de Meutter et al., 2008), mammals (Vanschoenwinkel et al., 2008b) and humans and their transportation means (Havel et al., 2002). This translates into relatively high dispersal rates, as is shown by rapid colonisation rates of new habitats and rapid spread of exotic species (e.g. Louette and De Meester, 2005; Havel and Shurin, 2004). Specific characteristics may make some species better dispersers than others, and dispersal rates in practice will also largely depend on abundance (i.e. sources of individuals). Effective dispersal, i.e. dispersal followed by establishment success, will in addition depend on the occurrence of habitats and their suitability for the focal species, and thus also on ecological specialisation and habitat preference of these species.

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