Relative contributions of ecological drift and selection on bat community structure in interior Atlantic Forest of Paraguay

Abstract

Despite extensive focus on numerous mechanisms that potentially structure Neotropical bat communities, understanding of the relative importance of any is still illusive. Recently, it has been demonstrated that all mechanisms used to explain community organization can be conceptualized as one or a combination of the few higher-level processes of dispersal, drift, selection and speciation. These four higher-level processes have not been addressed equally by Neotropical bat community ecologists. In particular, predictions formulated from a hypothesis of ecological drift have not been tested for any Neotropical bat community. Herein we contrast efficacy of predictions based on the higher-level processes of drift and selection in describing community structure of bats in the Atlantic Forest of eastern Paraguay. Predictions apply to species-environment interactions, patterns of trait variation and beta-diversity, predictability of dominant competitors and responses to seasonality. At best, there was inconsistent support for the operation of either drift or selection within this bat community. Selection, however, had more various forms of support including strong species-environment relationships, predictable patterns of dominant competitors and strong responses to seasonality. Despite stronger support for selection, a number of predictions of drift were supported as well. It is likely that a combination of both of these processes operates across the variable environments experienced in Atlantic Forest. Predictions of both processes are difficult to make operational. Support for drift often comes from failure to demonstrate a significant pattern and should not be considered strong support of a prediction. Similarly, many predictions of selection predict phenotypic patterns among species without specifying a particular trait. This is problematic because the phenotype is multifaceted and a lack of pattern in one measured trait might mask a strong pattern in some other unmeasured trait. Distilling mechanisms of community organization into four higher level processes is a substantial innovation in community ecology. Nonetheless, efforts need to be made to develop a suite of mutually exclusive and falsifiable predictions to facilitate future and more rapid understanding of community organization.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by Grants from the American Society of Mammalogists, Grants in Aid of Research, and by the Association of Biologists at Texas Tech University to RDS. In Paraguay, the Ministèrio de Agricultura y Ganadaría, through the Direccion de Parques Nacionales y Vida Silvestre, the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural del Paraguay, and in particular the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora office, provided substantial logistical support. Specifically, A. L. Aquino, I. Gamarra de Fox, and O. Romero were very helpful regarding vehicles and general logistical considerations. P. Mueller of Yaguareté Forests and A. Yanoski from the Fundación Moises Bertoni provided access to field sites as well as much logistical assistance. The Universidad Católica de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción provided storage and laboratory facilities. R. Baker, H. Garner, and K. MacDonald of the Museum of Texas Tech University provided support with specimen supplies and curation. H. Stevens, R. Fariña, M. Mieres, L. Giménez-Raidán, J. Pintos, and G. Terol provided field assistance. M. R. Willig, A. L. Aquino, S. Presley, C. López-Gonzáles, R. Owen, and M. Gorresen provided invaluable insights and assistance at all stages of this project.

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RDS and JRG equally conceived and designed the study, analyzed data and wrote the manuscript. RDS collected the data.

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Correspondence to Richard D. Stevens.

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The use of animals in this study was in accordance with the guidelines put forth by the Animal Care and Use committee of the American Society of Mammalogists (Sikes and the Animal Care and Use Committee of the American Society of Mammalogists 2016).

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Communicated by Thomas Lilley.

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Stevens, R.D., Grimshaw, J.R. Relative contributions of ecological drift and selection on bat community structure in interior Atlantic Forest of Paraguay. Oecologia (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-020-04683-z

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Keywords

  • Atlantic forest
  • Bats
  • Community structure
  • Ecological drift
  • Neutral theory
  • Selection