META-X: Generic Software for Metapopulation Viability Analysis
- Cite this article as:
- Grimm, V., Lorek, H., Finke, J. et al. Biodiversity and Conservation (2004) 13: 165. doi:10.1023/B:BIOC.0000004317.42949.f7
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The major tools used to make population viability analyses (PVA) quantitative are stochastic models of population dynamics. Since a specially tailored model cannot be developed for every threatened population, generic models have been designed which can be parameterised and analysed by non-modellers. These generic models compromise on detail so that they can be used for a wide range of species. However, generic models have been criticised because they can be employed without the user being fully aware of the concepts, methods, potentials, and limitations of PVA. Here, we present the conception of a new generic software package for metapopulation viability analysis, META-X. This conception is based on three elements, which take into account the criticism of earlier generic PVA models: (1) comparative simulation experiments; (2) an occupancy-type model structure which ignores details of local population dynamics (these details are integrated in external submodels); and (3) a unifying currency to quantify persistence and viability, the ‘intrinsic mean time to extinction’. The rationale behind these three elements is explained and demonstrated by exemplary applications of META-X in the three fields for which META-X has been designed: teaching, risk assessment in the field, and planning. The conception of META-X is based on the notion that PVA is a tool to deal with rather than to overcome uncertainty. The purpose of PVA is to produce relative, not absolute, assessments of extinction risk which support, but do not supplant, management decisions.