Landscape Ecology

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 77–89 | Cite as

The Viability of Metapopulations: Individual Dispersal Behaviour Matters

  • Simone K. HeinzEmail author
  • Christian Wissel
  • Karin Frank
Research article


Metapopulation models are frequently used for analysing species–landscape interactions and their effect on structure and dynamic of populations in fragmented landscapes. They especially support a better understanding of the viability of metapopulations. In such models, the processes determining metapopulation viability are often modelled in a simple way. Animals’ dispersal between habitat fragments is mostly taken into account by using a simple dispersal function that assumes the underlying process of dispersal to be random movement. Species-specific dispersal behaviour such as a systematic search for habitat patches is likely to influence the viability of a metapopulation. Using a model for metapopulation viability analysis, we investigate whether such specific dispersal behaviour affects the predictions of ranking orders among alternative landscape configurations rated regarding their ability to carry viable metapopulations. To incorporate dispersal behaviour in the model, we use a submodel for the colonisation rates which allows different movement patterns to be considered (uncorrelated random walk, correlated random walk with various degrees of correlation, and loops). For each movement pattern, the landscape order is determined by comparing the resulting mean metapopulation lifetime Tm of different landscape configurations. Results show that landscape orders can change considerably between different movement patterns. We analyse whether and under what circumstances dispersal behaviour influences the ranking orders of landscapes. We find that the ‘competition between patches for migrants’ – i.e. the fact that dispersers immigrating into one patch are not longer available as colonisers for other patches – is an important factor driving the change in landscape ranks. The implications of our results for metapopulation modelling, planning and conservation are discussed.


Landscape assessment Landscape ranking Modelling Movement patterns Patchy populations 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simone K. Heinz
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Christian Wissel
    • 1
  • Karin Frank
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecological ModellingUFZ – Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig HalleLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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