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Proc Biol Sci. 2009 Apr 22;276(1661):1407-13. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.1535. Epub 2009 Feb 20.

Evolved dispersal strategies at range margins.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of York, York YO10 5YW, UK.


Dispersal is a key component of a species's ecology and will be under different selection pressures in different parts of the range. For example, a long-distance dispersal strategy suitable for continuous habitat at the range core might not be favoured at the margin, where the habitat is sparse. Using a spatially explicit, individual-based, evolutionary simulation model, the dispersal strategies of an organism that has only one dispersal event in its lifetime, such as a plant or sessile animal, are considered. Within the model, removing habitat, increasing habitat turnover, increasing the cost of dispersal, reducing habitat quality or altering vital rates imposes range limits. In most cases, there is a clear change in the dispersal strategies across the range, although increasing death rate towards the margin has little impact on evolved dispersal strategy across the range. Habitat turnover, reduced birth rate and reduced habitat quality all increase evolved dispersal distances at the margin, while increased cost of dispersal and reduced habitat density lead to lower evolved dispersal distances at the margins. As climate change shifts suitable habitat poleward, species ranges will also start to shift, and it will be the dispersal capabilities of marginal populations, rather than core populations, that will influence the rate of range shifting.

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