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Metapopulations revisited: the area‐dependence of dispersal matters


Wang, Shaopeng; Altermatt, Florian (2019). Metapopulations revisited: the area‐dependence of dispersal matters. Ecology, 100(9):e02792.

Abstract

The metapopulation concept initiated a paradigm shift in ecology and conservation biology, recognizing the eminent role of dispersal and colonization as fundamental processes contributing to species’ long-term persistence. Early models made ad hoc assumptions about a positive area dependency of dispersal (i.e., total number of emigrants), which persisted in the theoretical literature; however, numerous empirical examples of negative area dependencies of dispersal have been reported. Here, we first give a qualitative overview for different area dependencies of dispersal in empirical systems. Then, using a spatially realistic Levins model, we show that extending assumptions on the area dependence of dispersal (ADD) to include all empirically supported parameter space, specifically also negative ADD, alters predictions on several conservation-relevant patterns. Importantly, we find that small patches could be of similar importance as large ones if dispersal decreases inversely with patch area, a result contrasting with previous findings based on a positive ADD. This leads to context-dependent strategies to preserve metapopulations. If dispersal is positively correlated with patch area, efforts should be devoted to preserving large patches and the total habitat area. If dispersal is negatively correlated with patch area, the most efficient strategy is to preserve a high number of patches, including small ones. Our results have direct implications for management decisions in the context of destruction, deterioration, and protection of habitat patches.

Abstract

The metapopulation concept initiated a paradigm shift in ecology and conservation biology, recognizing the eminent role of dispersal and colonization as fundamental processes contributing to species’ long-term persistence. Early models made ad hoc assumptions about a positive area dependency of dispersal (i.e., total number of emigrants), which persisted in the theoretical literature; however, numerous empirical examples of negative area dependencies of dispersal have been reported. Here, we first give a qualitative overview for different area dependencies of dispersal in empirical systems. Then, using a spatially realistic Levins model, we show that extending assumptions on the area dependence of dispersal (ADD) to include all empirically supported parameter space, specifically also negative ADD, alters predictions on several conservation-relevant patterns. Importantly, we find that small patches could be of similar importance as large ones if dispersal decreases inversely with patch area, a result contrasting with previous findings based on a positive ADD. This leads to context-dependent strategies to preserve metapopulations. If dispersal is positively correlated with patch area, efforts should be devoted to preserving large patches and the total habitat area. If dispersal is negatively correlated with patch area, the most efficient strategy is to preserve a high number of patches, including small ones. Our results have direct implications for management decisions in the context of destruction, deterioration, and protection of habitat patches.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Uncontrolled Keywords:colonization; dispersal rate; emigration; habitat destruction; metapopulation capacity; patch area; patch size; SLOSS.
Language:English
Date:1 September 2019
Deposited On:18 Sep 2019 16:20
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 11:21
Publisher:Ecological Society of America
ISSN:0012-9658
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2792
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