How do dispersal costs and habitat selection influence realized population connectivity?

Authors: Scott C Burgess, Eric A Treml and Dustin J Marshall

Published in: Ecology, volume 93, issue 6, doi: 10.1890/11-1656.1


Despite the importance of dispersal for population connectivity, dispersal is often costly to the individual.

A major impediment to understanding connectivity has been a lack of data combining the movement of individuals and their survival to reproduction in the new habitat (realized connectivity).

Although mortality often occurs during dispersal (an immediate cost), in many organisms costs are paid after dispersal (deferred costs). It is unclear how such deferred costs influence the mismatch between dispersal and realized connectivity.

Through a series of experiments in the field and laboratory, we estimated both direct and indirect deferred costs in a marine bryozoan (Bugula neritina). We then used the empirical data to parameterize a theoretical model in order to formalize predictions about how dispersal costs influence realized connectivity.

Individuals were more likely to colonize poor-quality habitat after prolonged dispersal durations. Individuals that colonized poor-quality habitat performed poorly after colonization because of some property of the habitat (an indirect deferred cost) rather than from prolonged dispersal per se (a direct deferred cost).

Our theoretical model predicted that indirect deferred costs could result in nonlinear mismatches between spatial patterns of potential and realized connectivity.

The deferred costs of dispersal are likely to be crucial for determining how well patterns of dispersal reflect realized connectivity. Ignoring these deferred costs could lead to inaccurate predictions of spatial population dynamics.

Full paper

Burgess SC, Treml EA, Marshall DJ (2012) How do dispersal costs and habitat selection influence realized population connectivity? Ecology 93: 1378–1387 PDFPDF 622 KB doi: 10.1890/11-1656.1