The viability of metapopulations in fragmented landscapes has become a central theme in conservation biology. Landscape fragmentation is increasingly recognized as a dynamical process: in many situations, the quality of local habitats must be expected to undergo continual changes. Here we assess the implications of such recurrent local disturbances for the equilibrium density of metapopulations. Using a spatially explicit lattice model in which the considered metapopulation as well as the underlying landscape pattern change dynamically, we show that equilibrium metapopulation density is maximized at intermediate frequencies of local landscape disturbance. On both sides around this maximum, the metapopulation may go extinct. We show how the position and shape of the intermediate viability maximum is responding to changes in the landscape's overall habitat quality and the population's propensity for local extinction. We interpret our findings in terms of a dual effect of intensified landscape disturbances, which on the one hand exterminate local populations and on the other hand enhance a metapopulation's capacity for spreading between habitat clusters.
- Cellular automata
- Dynamic landscapes
- Environmental heterogeneity
- Habitat fragmentation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Nature and Landscape Conservation