Scientists need both a local and regional perspective to conserve species which are often distributed heterogeneously across natural landscapes. This is because the occurrence of a species in a community can be determined both by its ability to survive local conditions and its ability to get there through dispersal. At the same time, isolation can lead to the evolution of populations in response to local conditions. Hence, the same landscape mosaic of patches that leads us to examine regional linkages among communities also may facilitate the evolution of local species interactions. Therefore an integrated perspective on networks of interconnected communities, a so-called metacommunity, requires that we understand both the ecological and evolutionary implications of varying degrees of spatial isolation. Toward this end, I am assimilating data from a wide range of data sources to determine the degree to which species traits vary as a result of local community conditions, their location within the landscape, and important traits such as dispersal ability and generation time. Results will inform conservation decisions and the development of emerging theories on evolution in metacommunities.
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