Landscape Ecology

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 293–303 | Cite as

Interception of moving organisms: influences of patch shape, size, and orientation on community structure

  • Kevin J. Gutzwiller
  • Stanley H. Anderson


Island biogeographers have predicted that in oceanic systems, oblong islands oriented perpendicular to the dispersal paths of organisms should intercept more species and individuals than (1) circular islands of the same size, and (2) oblong islands of equal area oriented parallel to the direction of travel. Landscape ecologists expect similar relations with habitat patches in a terrestrial matrix. Yet in neither situation is there adequate empirical information to permit conclusions about the prevalence of such effects. To test the hypothesis that intercept-related patch variables influence community structure on the landscape scale, we studied relations between the richness and abundance of cavity-nesting birds and patch shape, size, and orientation relative to a northerly migration path. The influences of other patch features on nest abundances were removed analytically. Multiple regression indicated that the mean and total number of nesting species, and nest abundances for migrants were significantly associated with patch orientation or a patch area x orientation interaction, but not patch shape. Nest abundances for permanent residents were not associated with patch shape or orientation, although area effects, possibly reflecting dispersal interception, were evident. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that stochastic interception of migrating or dispersing organisms influences patch community structure. In addition to richness and abundance effects apparent in this analysis, the sex ratio, age structure, growth rate, social structure, and genetic features of patch populations may also be influenced. The interception of moving organisms by patches may thus be a key factor influencing population and community persistence in reserves. If so, landscape structure could be manipulated to maximize the interception of dispersing or migrating organisms, or minimize it if the effects are undesirable.


abundance interception nesting birds patch orientation richness terrestrial matrix 


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Copyright information

© SPB Academic Publishing bv 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin J. Gutzwiller
    • 1
  • Stanley H. Anderson
    • 1
  1. 1.Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of WyomingLaramieUSA

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