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Am Nat. 2002 May;159(5):530-52. doi: 10.1086/338991.

A formula for the mean lifetime of metapopulations in heterogeneous landscapes.

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UFZ-Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig-Halle, Department of Ecological Modelling, P.O. Box 500136, D-04301 Leipzig, Germany.


We present a formula for the mean lifetime of metapopulations in heterogeneous landscapes. This formula provides new insights into the effect of the spatial structure of habitat networks on metapopulation survival, with consequences for modeling, landscape evaluation, and metapopulation management. In the whole study, the spatially realistic metapopulation model of Frank and Wissel is taken as a basis. First, as a key result on the way toward the desired formula, it is shown that a simple nonspatial (Levins-type) model is able to reproduce the behavior of the complex spatial model considered regarding the mean lifetime, provided its parameters appropriately summarize all the relevant details of spatial heterogeneity. Second, the formula presented reveals how data from species and landscape have to be combined to estimate the survival chance of a metapopulation without having to run any simulation or to solve numerically any model equation. Third, by taking the formula as a basis, landscape measures are derived that allow dissimilar habitat networks to be evaluated, compared, and ranked in terms of their effect on metapopulation survival. Fourth, a combination of analytical, nonlinear regression as well as aggregation techniques was used to deduce the formula presented. The potential of these techniques for simplifying (meta)population models that are complex due to spatial heterogeneity is discussed.

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