Connectivity, dispersal and priority effects as drivers of biodiversity and ecosystem function in pond and pool communities (BIOPOOL)

Courtesy of Luc De Meester

In this project, we will use pond communities throughout Europe as model systems for testing central hypotheses on the impact of dispersal, colonization and priority effects on community build-up and their consequences for ecosystem functioning. Our main objectives are to (1) characterise the relative importance of dispersal (determined by regional factors), historical effects (e.g. priority effects, partly mediated by propagule banks) and assemblage processes (driven by local factors) on biodiversity, and to (2) quantify the effect of diversity and genetic variation on ecosystem functioning, particularly exploitation efficiency and resistance to biological invasions. Because of their small size, ponds and pools are ideal for field and mesocosm experiments. Their importance for biodiversity and vulnerability to human impact has been widely recognized and led to the construction of many new pools. This creates numerous opportunities for well-controlled colonization experiments in the natural environment. We will exploit the unique opportunities of ponds and pools as models of naturally isolated systems. Our approach is to use a combination of observational studies, field and mesocosm experiments, pond restoration experiments, molecular ecological research, and modelling work to evaluate key hypotheses concerning the importance of regional (dispersal) and local (assemblage) factors for both within and between species diversity, as well as ecosystem function. We will study a range of organisms with different biological characteristics that naturally co-occur in the same habitats (unicellular algae, cyanobacteria, zooplankton, macrophytes), and will explicitly consider the interplay between within- and between-species diversity. The legacy of BIOPOOL will be (a) better insight in processes structuring communities in ponds and pools, (b) better understanding of key issues in community assemblage, processes determining biodiversity and its functional consequences, (c) protocols, modelling tools and a sound logistic framework to use ponds and pools as effective model systems in ecology, evolutionary biology, biodiversity research and conservation biology.

Courtesy of Luc De Meester

Project leader:

Professor Luc De Meester
Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology
Department of Biology
Faculty of Science
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
3000 Leuven Belgium
Phone:+32 16 32 37 08
Fax:+32 16 32 45 75


Principal Investigators:

Prof. Wim Vyverman, University of Ghent, BE

Dr. Martin Cerny, Charles University Prague, CZ

Dr. Klaus Schwenk, Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität Frankfurt, DE

Dr. László Forró, Hungarian Natural History Museum Budapest, HU

Dr. Wolf M. Mooij, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, NL

Dr. Jordi Figuerola, Estación Biológica de Doñana, ES

Dr. Luis Santamaria, University of Balearic Islands, ES