Persistence in fragmented landscapes

Ein Bild, das draußen, Himmel, Rock, Natur enthält.

Automatisch generierte BeschreibungMany natural habitats are dramatically altered by to environmental and climate change, and understanding these effects on persistence of species is crucial. Some species are able to cope with the changes and fragmentation of their habitats, while others are not. Together with an international team of researchers, Florian Altermatt, professor at our Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies and affiliated researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) answered a long-standing question on species-persistence in fragmented landscapes in their latest PNAS publication Multispecies coexistence in fragmented landscapes.


Florian Altermatt explains: “Such fragmented landscapes are very common, both naturally and caused by human activities. In such spatially fragmented landscapes, a combination of local survival and colonization of empty habitat patches is key to species' regional persistence. Ecological theory on species coexistence has so far largely focused on local communities. By integrating coexistence theory and metacommunity theory, we propose a mathematical framework to understand multiple species' coexistence in fragmented landscapes.

Ein Bild, das Gliederfüßer, Wirbellose, schmutzig enthält.

Automatisch generierte BeschreibungWe propose measures of niche and fitness differences for metacommunities, clarifying how spatial dynamics and habitat configuration interact w/ competition to determine coexistence of species. They tell us when and how species can coexist in realistic landscape configurations.” The author team then parametrised a model in a metacommunity of three different Daphnia species (one of such water fleas is shown in the picture to the right), covering >500 patches monitored over 36 years. Their results illustrate emergence of interspecific variation in extinction and recolonization processes, including their dependencies on patch size and temperature. This variation contributes to coexistence by reducing fitness differences and increasing nice differences between species. Contrastingly, contemporary environmental change decreases probability of species coexistence and reduces biodiversity.

Florian Altermatt highlights that “the project is a wonderful collaboration together with Shaopeng Wang and Mingyu Luo from Peking University, Serguei Saavedra from MIT, and Dieter Ebert  at University Basel. We started thinking and discussing about this topic 15 years ago during my PhD at the Tvärminne Zoological Station. It’s great it now sees the light of day!”




Florian Altermatt | | @altermatt_lab

Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies

Faculty of Science

University of Zurich


Florian Altermatt