Species Turnover through Time: Colonization and Extinction Dynamics across Metacommunities
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Island biogeography and metacommunity theory often use equilibrium assumptions to predict local diversity, yet nonequilibrium dynamics are common in nature. In nonequilibrium communities, local diversity fluctuates through time as the relative importance of colonization and extinction change. Here, we test the prevalence and causes of nonequilibrium dynamics in metacommunities of mites associated with rubber trees distributed over large spatial (>1,000 km) and temporal (>30-60 generations) scales in Brazil. We measured colonization and extinction rates to test species turnover and nonequilibrium dynamics over a growing season. Mite metacommunities exhibited nonequilibrium dynamics for most months of the year, and these dynamics tracked climatic conditions. Monthly shifts in temperature of more than 1 degrees C resulted in nonequilibrium dynamics, as did mean temperatures outside of two critical ranges. Nonequilibrium dynamics were caused by a change in colonization with temperature change and changes in both colonization and extinction with absolute temperature. Species turnover showed different trends; high relative humidity increased both colonization and extinction rates, increasing turnover but not nonequilibrium dynamics. Our study illustrates that testing nonequilibrium dynamics can provide new insights into the drivers of colonization, extinction, and diversity fluctuations in metacommunities.