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Impact of dispersal on population growth: the role of inter-patch distance


  • Diana E. Bowler,

  • Tim G. Benton

D. E. Bowler ( and T. G. Benton, Inst. of Integrative and Comparative Biology, Univ. of Leeds, Leeds, UK. Present address for DEB: School of the Environment and Natural Resources, Bangor Univ., Bangor, LL57 2UW, UK.


Dispersal can play a key role in the dynamics of patchy populations through patch colonization, and generally this leads to distance-dependent colonization. Less recognised are the roles of dispersal and inter-patch distance on the growth of a population after colonization. We use a laboratory mite model system in which both juveniles and adults can disperse to explore the impact of dispersal, and particularly inter-patch distance, on population dynamics. We examine the dynamics of patches after colonization by manipulating the presence of a dispersal corridor to a source patch at two inter-patch distances. Consistent with many field studies, the results show colonization was slower in more distant patches. Following colonization, the effect of the dispersal corridor on dynamics was dependent on inter-patch distance. In patches near the source, the number of adults tended to increase at a faster rate, and juveniles at a slower rate when connected with a dispersal corridor. In contrast, adult numbers grew slower and juveniles tended to grow faster when connected with a corridor in more distant patches. In the long-term, equilibrium adult numbers were lower in patches connected to the source patch at both distances. These results are likely to be driven by the effects of inter-patch distance on dispersal mortality, and the effects of dispersal on patch abundance and within-patch competition. These results confirm that distance is important for patch colonization and also show that distance can affect population density after colonization. The effects of dispersal and distance on local dynamics could be important in the dynamics of patchy populations in increasingly fragmented landscapes.

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