Information-mediated allee effects in breeding habitat selection

Kenneth A. Schmidt, Jacob Johansson, Matthew G. Betts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Social information isused widely inbreeding habitat selection and provides an efficient means for individuals to select habitat, but the population-level consequences of this process are not well explored. At low population densities, efficiencies may be reduced because there are insufficient information providers to cue high-quality habitat. This constitutes what we call an information-mediated Allee effect. We present the first general model for an information-mediated Allee effect applied to breeding habitat selection and unify personal and social information, Allee effects, and ecological traps into a common framework. In a second model, we consider an explicit mechanism of social information gathering through prospecting on conspecific breeding performance. In each model, we independently vary personal and social information use to demonstrate how dependency on social information may result in either weak or strong Allee effects that, in turn, affect population extinction risk. Abrupt transitions between outcomes can occur through reduced information transfer or small changes in habitat composition. Overall, information-mediated Allee effects may produce positive feedbacks that amplify population declines in species that are already experiencing environmentally driven stressors, such as habitat loss and degradation. Alternatively, social information has the capacity to rescue populations from ecological traps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E162-E171
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2015


  • Allee effect
  • Allee threshold
  • Ecological trap
  • Habitat selection
  • Social information


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