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Am Nat. 2003 Oct;162(4):427-41. Epub 2003 Oct 16.

The evolution of dispersal under demographic stochasticity.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Ecologie, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique-Unité Mixte de Recherche 7625, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Bâtiment A, 7ème étage case 237, 7 quai Saint Bernard, F-75252 Paris, France.


Temporal and spatial variations of the environment are important factors favoring the evolution of dispersal. With few exceptions, these variations have been considered to be exclusively fluctuations of habitat quality. However, since the presence of conspecifics forms part of an individual's environment, demographic stochasticity may be a component of this variability as well, in particular when local populations are small. To study this effect, we analyzed the evolution of juvenile dispersal in a metapopulation model in which habitat quality is constant in space and time but occupancy fluctuates because of demographic stochasticity. Our analysis extends previous studies in that it includes competition of resources and competition for space. Also, juvenile dispersal is not given by a fixed probability but is made conditional on the presence of free territories in a patch, whereas individuals born in full patches will always disperse. Using a combination of analytical and numerical approaches, we show that demographic stochasticity in itself may provide enough variability to favor dispersal even from patches that are not fully occupied. However, there is no simple relationship between the evolution of dispersal and various indicators of demographic stochasticity. Selected dispersal depends on all aspects of the life-history profile, including kin selection.

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