Research Article

Landscape Ecology

, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp 801-810

First online:

Movements of cactus bugs: Patch transfers, matrix resistance, and edge permeability

  • Robert L. SchooleyAffiliated withDepartment of Biology and Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University Email author 
  • , John A. WiensAffiliated withDepartment of Biology and Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University

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Individual movement is a key process affecting the distribution of animals in heterogeneous landscapes. For specialist species in patchy habitat, a central issue is how dispersal distances are related to landscape structure. We compared dispersal distances for cactus bugs (Chelinidea vittiger) on two naturally fragmented landscapes (≤ 4% suitable habitat) with different matrix structures (i.e., vegetation height of nonsuitable habitat between suitable patches). Using mark-release-recapture studies, we determined that most transfers between cactus patches occurred during the mating season. Dispersal distances were reduced by > 50% on the landscape that had reduced structural connectivity due to relatively high matrix structure and low patch density. An experiment with detailed movement pathways demonstrated that greater matrix structure decreased mean step lengths, reduced directionality, and thus decreased net displacement by > 60%. However, habitat edges between two matrix elements that differed substantially in resistance to movement were completely permeable. Therefore, the difference in distributions of dispersal distances between the two landscapes mainly reflected the average resistance of matrix habitat and not the level of matrix heterogeneity per se. Our study highlights the merits of combining estimates of dispersal distances with insights on mechanisms from detailed movement pathways, and emphasizes the difficulty of treating dispersal distances of species as fixed traits independent of landscape structure.

Key words

Animal movements Chelinidea vittiger Colorado USA Connectivity Dispersal Fragmentation Habitat boundaries Landscape structure Opuntia Patchy population