Testing the interaction between environmental variation and dispersal strategy on population dynamics using a soil mite experimental system
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Dispersal can play an important role in both the local and regional dynamics of populations. Empirical studies have shown that the proportion of individuals dispersing is often density dependent, which may have implications for the effect of dispersal on populations. In this study, we manipulate the dispersal strategy of adults within two-patch laboratory populations of soil mites and compare the consequences of fixed (density-independent) and density-dependent dispersal in environments of constant and temporally varying resource availability. Effects of dispersal on population dynamics were dependent on the presence of environmental variation. Both dispersal strategies tended to spatially homogenize the population abundance of adults in a variable environment. However, the effect of environmental variation on mean adult abundance was greater with density-dependent dispersal than with fixed dispersal. Adult dispersal did not affect juvenile or egg abundance. This study demonstrates the potential significance of density-dependent dispersal for population dynamics, but emphasizes the role of the environmental context.
KeywordsCondition-dependent dispersal Environmental stochasticity Inter-patch movement Sancassania berlesei Spatial ecology
DB was funded by a NERC studentship. We thank Stewart Plaistow for discussion on this topic. We also thank three anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript. The experiment complies with the current laws of the country in which they were performed. The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
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