Linking movement behaviour, dispersal and population processes: is individual variation a key?


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  • 1Movement behaviour has become increasingly important in dispersal ecology and dispersal is central to the development of spatially explicit population ecology. The ways in which the elements have been brought together are reviewed with particular emphasis on dispersal distance distributions and the value of mechanistic models.
  • 2There is a continuous range of movement behaviours and in some species, dispersal is a clearly delineated event but not in others. The biological complexities restrict conclusions to high-level generalizations but there may be principles that are common to dispersal and other movements.
  • 3Random walk and diffusion models when appropriately elaborated can provide an understanding of dispersal distance relationships on spatial and temporal scales relevant to dispersal. Leptokurtosis in the relationships may be the result of a combination of factors including population heterogeneity, correlation, landscape features, time integration and density dependence. The inclusion in diffusion models of individual variation appears to be a useful elaboration. The limitations of the negative exponential and other phenomenological models are discussed.
  • 4The dynamics of metapopulation models are sensitive to what appears to be small differences in the assumptions about dispersal. In order to represent dispersal realistically in population models, it is suggested that phenomenological models should be replaced by those based on movement behaviour incorporating individual variation.
  • 5The conclusions are presented as a set of candidate principles for evaluation. The main features of the principles are that uncorrelated or correlated random walk, not linear movement, is expected where the directions of habitat patches are unpredictable and more complex behaviour when organisms have the ability to orientate or navigate. Individuals within populations vary in their movement behaviour and dispersal; part of this variation is a product of random elements in movement behaviour and some of it is heritable. Local and metapopulation dynamics are influenced by population heterogeneity in dispersal characteristics and heritable changes in dispersal propensity occur on time-scales short enough to impact population dynamics.