Individual-based simulation of the spatial and temporal dynamics of macroinvertebrate functional groups provides insights into benthic community assembly mechanisms

Nikolaos Alexandridis, Cédric Bacher, Nicolas Desroy, Fred Jean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The complexity and scales of the processes that shape communities of marine benthic macroinvertebrates has limited our understanding of their assembly mechanisms and the potential to make projections of their spatial and temporal dynamics. Individual-based models can shed light on community assembly mechanisms, by allowing observed spatiotemporal patterns to emerge from first principles about the modeled organisms. Previous work in the Rance estuary (Brittany, France) revealed the principal functional components of its benthic macroinvertebrate communities and derived a set of functional relationships between them. These elements were combined here for the development of a dynamic and spatially explicit model that operates at two spatial scales. At the fine scale, modeling each individual's life cycle allowed the representation of recruitment, inter- and intra-group competition, biogenic habitat modification and predation mortality. Larval dispersal and environmental filtering due to the tidal characteristics of the Rance estuary were represented at the coarse scale. The two scales were dynamically linked and the model was parameterized on the basis of theoretical expectations and expert knowledge. The model was able to reproduce some patterns of α- and β-diversity that were observed in the Rance estuary in 1995. Model analysis demonstrated the role of local and regional processes, particularly early post-settlement mortality and spatially restricted dispersal, in shaping marine benthos. It also indicated biogenic habitat modification as a promising area for future research. The combination of this mechanism with different substrate types, along with the representation of physical disturbances and more trophic categories, could increase the model's realism. The precise parameterization and validation of the model is expected to extend its scope from the exploration of community assembly mechanisms to the formulation of predictions about the responses of community structure and functioning to environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere5038
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology


  • A-diversity
  • B-diversity
  • Benthic macroinvertebrates
  • Biological traits
  • Biotic interactions
  • Community assembly
  • Functional groups
  • Individual-based model
  • Inter-scale modeling
  • Rance estuary


Dive into the research topics of 'Individual-based simulation of the spatial and temporal dynamics of macroinvertebrate functional groups provides insights into benthic community assembly mechanisms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this