Skip to main content


Spatial Dynamics and Ecological Communities

Until recently community ecology—a science devoted to understanding the patterns and processes of species distribution and abundance—focused mainly on specific and often limited scales of a single community. Since the 1970s, for example, metapopulation dynamics—studies of interacting groups of populations connected through movement—concentrated on the processes of population turnover, extinction, and establishment of new populations.

Metacommunities takes the hallmarks of metapopulation theory to the next level by considering a group of communities, each of which may contain numerous populations, connected by species interactions within communities and the movement of individuals between communities. In examining communities open to dispersal, the book unites a broad range of ecological theories, presenting some of the first empirical investigations and revealing the value of the metacommunity approach.

The collection of empirical, theoretical, and synthetic chapters in Metacommunities seeks to understand how communities work in fragmented landscapes. Encouraging community ecologists to rethink some of the leading theories of population and community dynamics, Metacommunities urges ecologists to expand the spatiotemporal scales of their research. 

520 pages | 1 halftone, 73 line drawings, 8 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2005

Biological Sciences: Botany, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Natural History, Tropical Biology and Conservation


"The book presents a compelling case for adding the metacommunity concept to the ecologocial toolbox. I suggest that you add it to your bookshelf. . . . My personal standard for a book is that it changes how I think about a subject. This book met this criterion. Metacommunities makes an excellent case that metacommunity theory is not just metapopulation theory for the 00s. Substantially different dynamics from those predicted in metapopulation models result when dispersal enmeshes the local dynamics of multiple interacting species. I believe the book will encourage readers to understand how regional linkages affect local ecological outcomes in their own systems."

Mark C. Urban | Conservation Biology

"The material is clearly presented and the quality of writing is generally high. In its liberal use of tables and diagrams, the book serves as an excellent introduction to the foundational concepts and theoretical lineage of metacommunity theory. It certainly is an excellent choice for a graduate seminar."

Michael M. Fuller | Ecology

"This book is a resoundingly thorough exploration of metacommunity concepts to date. . . . An exciting and valuable compilation of ideas that will strengthen this rapidly growing field."

Don A. Driscoll | Austral Ecology

"This book is timely, scholarly, stimulating, and a major step toward a fully unfied community ecology. It is a must-read for anyone trying to understand diversity and structure of biotic communities."

Hans Henrik Bruun | Ecoscience

"[The book] deserves a wide readership among community ecologists, scholars of ecosystem ecology and related disciplines."

Matthias Gross | History of Philosophy and Life Science

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
1. Metacommunities: A Framework for Large-Scale Community Ecology
Marcel Holyoak, Mathew A. Leibold, Nicolas M. Mouquet, Robert D. Holt, and Martha F. Hoopes
Part 1: Core Concepts
Introduction by Marcel Holyoak
2. The Effects of Spatial Processes on Two Species Interactions
Martha F. Hoopes, Robert D. Holt, and Marcel Holyoak
3. Food Web Dynamics in a Metacommunity Context: Modules and Beyond
Robert D. Holt and Martha F. Hoopes
Part 2: Empirical Perspectives
Introduction by Marcel Holyoak and Robert D. Holt
4. Metacommunities of Butterflies, Their Host Plants, and Their Parasitoids
Saskya van Nouhuys and Ilkka Hanski
5. Inquiline Communities in Pitcher Plants as a Prototypical Metacommunity
Thomas E. Miller and Jamie M. Kneitel
6. Local and Regional Community Dynamics in Fragmented Landscapes: Insights from a Bryophyte-based Natural Microcosm
Andrew Gonzalez
7. Metacommunity Structure Influences the Stability of Local Beetle Communities
Kendi F. Davies, Brett A. Melbourne, Chris R. Margules, and John F. Lawrence
8. Local Interactions and Local Dispersal in a Zooplankton Metacommunity
Karl Cottenie and Luc De Meester
9. Assembly of Unequals in the Unequal World of a Rock Pool Metacommunity
Jurek Kolasa and Tamara N. Romanuk
Part 3: Theoretical Perspectives
Introduction by Richard Law and Priyanga Amarasekare
10. The World Is Patchy and Heterogeneous! Trade-off and Source-Sink Dynamics in Competitive Metacommunities
Nicholas Mouquet, Martha F. Hoopes, and Priyanga Amarasekare
11. Assembly Dynamics in Metacommunities
Richard Law and Mathew Leibold
12. Scale Transition Theory for Understanding Mechanisms in Metacommunities
Peter Chesson, Megan J. Donahue, Brett A. Melbourne, and Anna L. W. Sears
13. Applying Scale Transition Theory to Metacommunities in the Field
Brett A. Melbourne, Anna L. W. Sears, Megan J. Donahue, and Peter Chesson
Part 4: Emerging Areas and Perspectives
Introduction by Marcel Holyoak and Mathew Leibold
14. Competing Theories for Competitive Metacommunities
Jonathan M. Chase, Priyanga Amarasekare, Karl Cottenie, Andrew Gonzalez, Robert D. Holt, Marcel Holyoak, Martha F. Hoopes, Mathew A. Leibold, Michel Loreau, Nicolas Mouquet, Jonathan B. Shurin, and David Tilman
15. Assembling and Depleting Species Richness in Metacommunities: Insights from Ecology, Population Genetics, and Macroevolution
Mark A. McPeek and Richard Gomulkiewicz
16. Habitat Selection, Species Interactions, and Processes of Community Assembly in Complex Landscapes: A Metacommunity Perspective
William J. Resetarits, Jr., Christopher A. Binckley, and David R. Chalcraft
17. New Perspectives on Local and Regional Diversity: Beyond Saturation
Jonathan B. Shurin and Diane S. Srivastava
18. From Metacommunities to Metaecosystems
Michel Loreau, Nicolas Mouquet, and Robert D. Holt
19. Adaptive and Coadaptive Dynamics in Metacommunities: Tracking Environmental Change at Different Spatial Scales
Mathew A. Leibold, Robert D. Holt, and Marcel Holyoak
20. Future Directions in Metacommunity Ecology
Robert D. Holt, Marcel Holyoak, and Mathew A. Leibold
Coda by Marcel Holyoak, Mathew A. Leibold, and Robert D. Holt
List of Contributors

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press