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Am Nat. 2008 Oct;172(4):563-75. doi: 10.1086/590962.

The role of landscape-dependent disturbance and dispersal in metapopulation persistence.

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Ecology Centre, School of Integrative Biology, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.


The fundamental processes that influence metapopulation dynamics (extinction and recolonization) will often depend on landscape structure. Disturbances that increase patch extinction rates will frequently be landscape dependent such that they are spatially aggregated and have an increased likelihood of occurring in some areas. Similarly, landscape structure can influence organism movement, producing asymmetric dispersal between patches. Using a stochastic, spatially explicit model, we examine how landscape-dependent correlations between dispersal and disturbance rates influence metapopulation dynamics. Habitat patches that are situated in areas where the likelihood of disturbance is low will experience lower extinction rates and will function as partial refuges. We discovered that the presence of partial refuges increases metapopulation viability and that the value of partial refuges was contingent on whether dispersal was also landscape dependent. Somewhat counterintuitively, metapopulation viability was reduced when individuals had a preponderance to disperse away from refuges and was highest when there was biased dispersal toward refuges. Our work demonstrates that landscape structure needs to be incorporated into metapopulation models when there is either empirical data or ecological rationale for extinction and/or dispersal rates being landscape dependent.

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