Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 363–378 | Cite as

Temporal resource variability and the habitat-matching rule

  • G. M. Recer
  • W. U. Blanckenhorn
  • J. A. Newman
  • E. M. Tuttle
  • M. L. Withiam
  • T. Caraco


The ideal free distribution of competitors in a heterogeneous environment often predicts habitat matching, where the equilibrium number of consumers in a patch is proportional to resource abundance in that patch. We model the interaction between habitat matching and temporal variation in resource abundance. In one patch the rate of resource input follows a Markov chain; a second patch does not vary temporally. We predict patch use by scaling transition rates in the variable patch to the time that consumers require to respond to changes in rates of resource input. If consumers respond very quickly, habitat matching tracks temporal variability. If resource input fluctuates faster than consumers respond, habitat matching averages over the equilibrium of the Markov chain. Tracking and averaging produce the same mean resource consumption for individuals, but long-term mean occupation of the patches differs. When habitat matching tracks temporal variability in resources, consumer density in the variable patch has a lower mean and a higher variance than when habitat matching reflects only average rates of resource input.

We tested our model by feeding free-living mallard ducks (Anas platyrynchos) at two artificial patches. The foragers' behavior satisfied the quantitative predictions of the model in each of two experiments.


Habitat matching ideal free theory mallard ducks (Anas platyrynchosstable spatial dispersion temporal resource variability 


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Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall Ltd. 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. M. Recer
    • 1
  • W. U. Blanckenhorn
    • 1
  • J. A. Newman
    • 1
  • E. M. Tuttle
    • 1
  • M. L. Withiam
    • 1
  • T. Caraco
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioral Ecology Group, Biological SciencesState University of New YorkAlbanyUSA

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