When new habitats are created, community assembly may follow independent trajectories, since the relative importance of dispersal limitation, priority effects, species interactions, and environmental gradients can vary as assembly proceeds. Unfortunately, tracking community colonization and composition across decades is challenging. We compiled a multiyear community composition data set and reconstructed past communities with remains from sediment cores to investigate cladoceran assembly dynamics in six older (1920s) and two more recently formed (1950s) lakes. We found that current communities cluster along a gradient of thermal stratification that is known to influence predation intensity. Assembling communities showed evidence for a greater influence of species sorting and a reduced influence of spatial structure since the first colonizations. However, lake community trajectories varied considerably, reflecting different colonization sequences among lakes. In the older lakes, small-bodied cladocerans often arrived much earlier than large-bodied cladocerans, while the two younger lakes were colonized much more rapidly, and one was quickly dominated by a large-bodied species. Thus, by combining contemporary community data with paleoecological records, we show that assembly history influences natural community structure for decades while patterns of ecological sorting develop.
- Community dissimilarity
- Spatial structure
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics