Structured models of metapopulation dynamics



I develop models of metapopulation dynamics that describe changes in the numbers of individuals within patches. These models are analogous to structured population models, with patches playing the role of individuals. Single species models which do not include the effect of immigration on local population dynamics of occupied patches typically lead to a unique equilibrium. The models can be used to study the distributions of numbers of individuals among patches, showing that both metapopulations with local outbreaks and metapopulations without outbreaks can occur in systems with no underlying environmental variability. Distributions of local population sizes (in occupied patches) can vary independently of the total population size, so both patterns of distributions of local population sizes are compatible with either rare or common species. Models which include the effect of immigration on local population dynamics can lead to two positive equilibria, one stable and one unstable, the latter representing a threshold between regional extinction and persistence.