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Intraspecific variation shapes community-level behavioral responses to urbanization in spiders

Abstract : Urban areas are an extreme example of human-changed environments, exposing organisms to multiple and strong selection pressures. Adaptive behavioral responses are thought to play a major role in animals' success or failure in such new environments. Approaches based on functional traits have proven especially valuable to understand how species communities respond to environmental gradients. Until recently, they have, however, often ignored the potential consequences of intraspecific trait variation (ITV). When ITV is prevalent, it may highly impact ecological processes and resilience against stressors. This may be especially relevant in animals, in which behavioral traits can be altered very flexibly at the individual level to track environmental changes. We investigated how species turnover and ITV influenced community-level behavioral responses in a set of 62 sites of varying levels of urbanization, using orb web spiders and their webs as models of foraging behavior. ITV alone explained around one-third of the total trait variation observed among communities. Spider web structure changed according to urbanization, in ways that increase the capture efficiency of webs in a context of smaller urban prey. These trait shifts were partly mediated by species turnover, but ITV increased their magnitude, potentially helping to buffer the effects of environmental changes on communities. The importance of ITV varied depending on traits and on the spatial scale at which urbanization was considered. Despite being neglected from community-level analyses in animals, our results highlight the importance of accounting for intraspecific trait variation to fully understand trait responses to (human-induced) environmental changes and their impact on ecosystem functioning.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 3:46:50 PM
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Maxime Dahirel, Jasper Dierick, Maarten de Cock, Dries Bonte. Intraspecific variation shapes community-level behavioral responses to urbanization in spiders. Ecology, Ecological Society of America, 2017, 98 (9), pp.2379-2390. ⟨10.1002/ecy.1915⟩. ⟨hal-01617562⟩

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