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Theor Popul Biol. 2002 Nov;62(3):231-49.

Habitat destruction in a simple predator-prey patch model: how predators enhance prey persistence and abundance.

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  • 1Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 320, 1098 SM Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


We model a metapopulation of predator-prey patches using both spatially implicit or mean-field (MF) and spatially explicit (SE) approaches. We show that in the MF model there are parameter regimes for which prey cannot persist in the absence of predators, but can in their presence. In addition, there are parameter regimes for which prey may persist in isolation, but the presence of predators will increase prey patch density. Predators may thus enhance prey persistence and overall abundance. The key mechanism responsible for this effect is the occurrence of prey dispersal from patches that are occupied by both prey and predators. In addition, these patches should be either long-lived, such as that occurs when predators keep prey from overexploiting its local resource, or the presence of a predator on a patch should significantly enhance the prey dispersal out of that patch. In the SE approach these positive effects of predators on prey persistence and abundance occur for even larger parameter ranges than in the MF model. Prey dispersal from predator-prey patches may thus be important for persistence of both species as a community, independent of the modeling framework studied. Comparison of the MF and SE approaches shows that local dispersal constraints can have the edge over global dispersal for the persistence of the metapopulation in regimes where the two species have a beneficial effect on each other. In general, our model provides an example of feedback in multiple-species metapopulations that can make the implementation of conservation schemes based on single-species arguments very risky.

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