Lake regionalization and diatom metacommunity structuring in tropical South America

Xavier Benito, Sherilyn C. Fritz, Miriam Steinitz-Kannan, Maria I. Vélez, Michael M. McGlue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Lakes and their topological distribution across Earth's surface impose ecological andevolutionary constraints on aquatic metacommunities. In this study, we group similarlake ecosystems as metacommunity units influencing diatom community structure.We assembled a database of 195 lakes from the tropical Andes and adjacent lowlands(8°N-30°S and 58-79°W) with associated environmental predictors to examine diatom metacommunity patterns at two different levels: taxon and functional (deconstructed species matrix by ecological guilds). We also derived spatial variables thatinherently assessed the relative role of dispersal. Using complementary multivariatestatistical techniques (principal component analysis, cluster analysis, nonmetric multidimensional scaling, Procrustes, variance partitioning), we examined diatom-environment relationships among different lake habitats (sediment surface, periphyton,and plankton) and partitioned community variation to evaluate the influence ofniche-and dispersal-based assembly processes in diatom metacommunity structureacross lake clusters. The results showed a significant association between geographicclusters of lakes based on gradients of climate and landscape configuration and diatom assemblages. Six lake clusters distributed along a latitudinal gradient were identified as functional metacommunity units for diatom communities. Variancepartitioning revealed that dispersal mechanisms were a major contributor to diatommetacommunity structure, but in a highly context-dependent fashion across lakeclusters. In the Andean Altiplano and adjacent lowlands of Bolivia, diatom metacommunities are niche assembled but constrained by either dispersal limitation or masseffects, resulting from area, environmental heterogeneity, and ecological guild relationships. Topographic heterogeneity played an important role in structuring plankticdiatom metacommunities. We emphasize the value of a guild-based metacommunitymodel linked to dispersal for elucidating mechanisms underlying latitudinal gradientsin distribution. Our findings reveal the importance of shifts in ecological driversacross climatic and physiographically distinct lake clusters, providing a basis for comparison of broad-scale community gradients in lake-rich regions elsewhere. This may help guide future research to explore evolutionary constraints on the rich Neotropicalbenthic diatom species pool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7865-7878
Number of pages14
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number16
StatePublished - 2018


  • Diatom guilds
  • Lakes
  • Latitudinal gradient
  • Metacommunity
  • Topographic heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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