Metacommunity theory predicts that habitat size, connectivity, dispersal, biotic interactions (competition, trophic interactions), and abiotic environmental conditions jointly determine species occurrence and local community composition and diversity. We employ a trait-based approach in a natural metacommunity system, and integrate spatial heterogeneity, traits related to dispersal in space and time, biotic interactions and environmental filtering to understand plant community assembly and ecosystem functioning. Using a large-scale naturally fragmented grassland system in the archipelago of Southern Finland as a model system, we examine:
- What is the influence of habitat heterogeneity (connectivity, size), species’ traits related to dispersal and competition, and environmental filtering on species occurrences, community composition and diversity?
- How are species’ dispersal abilities, both spatial and temporal, related to their distributions and diversity in a spatially heterogeneous system?
- How dispersal distance, dispersal-related traits and competition-related traits affect community responses to global changes?