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A Metapopulation Paradox: Partial Improvement of Habitat May Reduce Metapopulation Persistence

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JournalAMERICAN NATURALIST
DatePublished - Jun 2011
Issue number6
Volume177
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)792-799
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The adverse influence of habitat degradation on the survival of populations may sometimes be amplified by rapid evolution over ecological timescales. This phenomenon of "evolutionary suicide" has been described in theoretical as well as empirical studies. However, no studies have suggested that habitat improvement could possibly also trigger an evolutionary response that would result in a decline in population size. We use individual-based simulations to demonstrate the potential for such a paradoxical response. An increase in the quality, size, or stability of only a fraction of the habitat patches in a metapopulation may result in an evolutionary decline in the dispersal propensity of individuals, followed by a decrease in recolonization, a reduction in the number of patches occupied, a decline in overall population size, and even extinction. Thus, well-intended conservation efforts that ignore potential evolutionary consequences of habitat management may increase the extinction risk of populations.

    Research areas

  • extinction, conservation, habitat improvement, evolutionary response, dispersal strategy, DENSITY-DEPENDENT DISPERSAL, LONG-DISTANCE DISPERSAL, INDIVIDUAL-BASED MODEL, CLIMATE-CHANGE, FRAGMENTED LANDSCAPES, EVOLUTIONARY RESPONSE, LOCAL EXTINCTION, RATES, DYNAMICS, COMPETITION

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