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Dispersal and Species Diversity: A Meta‐Analysis

Complex Systems Group, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996

Species diversity in communities of interacting organisms is thought to be enhanced by dispersal, yet mechanisms predicting this have little to say about what effects differing rates of dispersal have on diversity and how dispersal affects diversity at larger spatial scales. I performed meta‐analyses on 23 studies comprising 50 experiments that manipulated species migration and measured community richness or diversity to test three hypotheses: that dispersal increases local diversity; that this effect depends on the rate of dispersal, specifically, that local diversity should be maximized at intermediate dispersal rates or else linearly related to dispersal rate; and that regional diversity may be either unaffected or negatively impacted by dispersal because dispersal tends to homogenize local communities. I found that immigration increased local diversity. Further, in animal studies, diversity appears maximized at intermediate dispersal rates but not with plant studies; however, more standardized studies are needed. Finally, results are ambiguous as to what happens at larger scales, with studies finding either declines or no change in regional diversity with dispersal. Taken together, these results reveal that dispersal has a complex, spatially contingent relationship with patterns of species diversity.