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Ecological dynamics of extinct species in empty habitat networks. 1. The role of habitat pattern and quantity, stochasticity and dispersal

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JournalOikos
DatePublished - Sep 2003
Issue number3
Volume102
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)449-464
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

We examined a remnant host plant (Primula veris L.) habitat network that was last inhabited by the rare butterfly Hamearis lucina L. in north Wales in 1943, to assess the relative contribution of several spatial parameters to its regional extinction. We first examined relationships between P. veris characteristics and H. lucina eggs in surviving H. lucina populations, and used these to predict the suitability and potential carrying capacity of the habitat network in north Wales. This resulted in an estimate of roughly 4500 eggs (ca 227 adults). We developed a discrete space, discrete time metapopulation model to evaluate the relative contribution of dispersal distance, habitat and environmental stochasticity as possible causes of extinction. We simulated the potential persistence of the butterfly in the current network as well as in three artificial (historical and present) habitat networks that differed in the quantity (current and X3) and fragmentation of the habitat (current and aggregated). We identified that reduced habitat quantity and increased isolation would have increased the probability of regional extinction, in conjunction with environmental stochasticity and H. lucina's dispersal distance. This general trend did not change in a qualitative manner when we modified the ability of dispersing females to stay in, and find suitable habitats (by changing the size of the grid cells used in the model). Contrary to most metapopulation model predictions, system persistence declined with increasing migration rate, suggesting that the mortality of migrating individuals in fragmented landscapes may pose significant risks to system-wide persistence. Based on model predictions for the present landscape we argue that a major programme of habitat restoration would be required for a re-established metapopulation to persist for > 100 years.

    Research areas

  • METAPOPULATION DYNAMICS, ESTABLISHED POPULATIONS, SPATIAL AUTOCORRELATION, CORRELATED ENVIRONMENTS, BRITISH BUTTERFLIES, CONSERVATION, MIGRATION, MODELS, REINTRODUCTION, TRANSLOCATION

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