Information thresholds, habitat loss and population persistence in breeding birds

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4 Scopus citations

Abstract

The combination of spatial structure and non-linear population dynamics can promote the persistence of coupled populations, even when the average population growth rate of the patches seen in isolation would predict otherwise. This phenomenon has generally been conceptualized and investigated through the movement of individuals among patches that each holds many individuals, as in metapopulation models. However, population persistence can likewise increase as the result of individuals moving among sites (e.g. breeding territories) within in a single patch. Here I examine the latter: individuals making small-scale informed decisions with respect to where to breed can promote population persistence in poor environments. Based on a simple algebraic model, I demonstrate information thresholds, and predict that greater information use is required for population persistence under lower spatial heterogeneity in habitat quality, all else equal. Second, I implement an individual-based model to explore prior experience and prospecting on conspecific success within a more complex, and spatially heterogeneous environment. Uniquely, I jointly examine the effects of simulated habitat loss, spatial heterogeneity prior to habitat, and variation in information gathering on population persistence. I find that habitat loss accelerates population quasi-extinction risk; however, information use reduces extinction probabilities in proportion to the level of information gathering. Per capita reproductive success declines with number of breeding sites, suggesting that information-mediated Allee effects may contribute to extinction risk. In conclusion, my study suggests that populations in a changing world may be increasingly vulnerable to extinction where patch size and spatial heterogeneity constrain the effectiveness of information-use strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-659
Number of pages9
JournalOikos
Volume126
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2017

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