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Spatial coherence (synchrony) among subpopulations poses a danger to the metacommunity, as it increases the risk of regional extinction. When this effect is significant, the use of inference techniques based on the stochastic patch occupancy model (SPOM) may be inadequate, since SPOMs assume that each habitat patch is either occupied or empty, thereby neglecting the intra-patch dynamics. Here we suggest a general classification of the dynamics that allows the identification, in a model-independent manner, of the regimes where coherence effects are strong. We also present a new technique, based on patch occupancy (presence/absence) data, for identifying the role of spatial coherence in the stabilization of a metapopulation. If the chance of a local extinction grows with the connectivity, this implies that spatial synchronization is too strong and that regional-scale extinction becomes possible. When this scenario occurs, a decrease in the movement of individuals (habitat fragmentation, reduced dispersal rates) has a positive effect on the sustainability of the spatially distributed population. The results of individual based simulations of a spatially structured population are analyzed with SPOM and the regime where the two-state approximation fails is identified.