Species assortment or habitat filtering: a case study of spider communities on lake islands

Research paper by Werner Ulrich, Izabela Hajdamowicz, Marcin Zalewski, Marzena Stańska, Wojciech Ciurzycki, Piotr Tykarski

Indexed on: 21 Nov '09Published on: 21 Nov '09Published in: Ecological Research


Competition theory predicts that species of similar ecological niches are less likely to coexist than species with different niches, a process called species assortment. In contrast, the concept of habitat filtering implies that species with similar ecological requirements should co-occur more often than expected by chance. Here we use environmental and ecological data to assess patterns of co-occurrence of regional communities of spiders distributed across two assemblies of lake islands in northern Poland. We found aggregated and random co-occurrences of species of the same genus and a significant tendency of species segregation across genera. We also found that species of the same genus react similarly to important environmental variables. A comparison of ecological traits of species of the local communities with those expected from a random sample from the regional Polish species pool corroborated partly the habitat filtering hypothesis. On the other hand, we did not find evidence for species assortment. Our results also imply that at least some observed species co-occurrences result from niche differentiation.