Metacommunity models offer the most complete view of the factors maintaining species diversity that has been described to date. The metacommunity concept realistically describes how both local and regional forces can contribute to species diversity, and how the structure of local communities can be altered by immigration from other communities within the region. To date, metacommunity models consist of four broad kinds: neutral, patch dynamics, species sorting, and mass effects (or source-sink). There is a variety of empirical evidence for species sorting and mass effects models, whereas patch dynamics appear less common, and there is no good example of a system with neutral community dynamics. A metacommunity structure is likely to alter the composition of local communities, food web structure, species abundances, and the potential for evolution.

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