The interplay between abiotic and biotic factors in dispersal decisions in metacommunities

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2024 Jul 29;379(1907):20230137. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2023.0137. Epub 2024 Jun 24.


Suitable conditions for species to survive and reproduce constitute their ecological niche, which is built by abiotic conditions and interactions with conspecifics and heterospecifics. Organisms should ideally assess and use information about all these environmental dimensions to adjust their dispersal decisions depending on their own internal conditions. Dispersal plasticity is often considered through its dependence on abiotic conditions or conspecific density and, to a lesser extent, with reference to the effects of interactions with heterospecifics, potentially leading to misinterpretation of dispersal drivers. Here, we first review the evidence for the effects of and the potential interplays between abiotic factors, biotic interactions with conspecifics and heterospecifics and phenotype on dispersal decisions. We then present an experimental test of these potential interplays, investigating the effects of density and interactions with conspecifics and heterospecifics on temperature-dependent dispersal in microcosms of Tetrahymena ciliates. We found significant differences in dispersal rates depending on the temperature, density and presence of another strain or species. However, the presence and density of conspecifics and heterospecifics had no effects on the thermal-dependency of dispersal. We discuss the causes and consequences of the (lack of) interplay between the different environmental dimensions and the phenotype for metacommunity assembly and dynamics. This article is part of the theme issue 'Diversity-dependence of dispersal: interspecific interactions determine spatial dynamics'.

Keywords: Tetrahymena; biotic context; competition; habitat choice; plasticity.

MeSH terms

  • Biota
  • Ecosystem
  • Phenotype
  • Temperature*
  • Tetrahymena / physiology