The conceptualization of fragmented populations in terms of metapopulation theory has become standard over the last three decades. It is well known that increases in between-patch migration rates cause more synchronous population fluctuations and that this coherence increases the risk of global metapopulation extinction. Because species’ migration rates and the probability of individuals surviving migration events depend on the effective distance between patches, the benefit of improving conservation corridors or the matrix between habitat patches has been questioned. As populations occur in the context of larger communities, moving from a metapopulation to a metacommunity model framework is a natural extension to address the generality of these conclusions. We show how considering a metacommunity can modify the conclusion that decreasing the effective distance between habitat patches (via improving matrix quality or other measures) necessarily increases the degree of metapopulation synchrony. We show that decreases in effective between-patch distance may deter population synchrony because of the simultaneous effect this change has on the migration patterns of other species. These results indicate that species interactions need to be considered when the effect of conservation measures on population synchrony, and ultimately persistence, is addressed.
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