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Assessing source-sink stability in the context of management and land-use change

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Management actions and land-use change can disrupt interdependent population processes, re-define population networks, and change source-sink dynamics. Yet we know little about the types of changes that can de-stabilize source-sink dynamics and how such changes could affect management decisions.


We examined the degree to which source-sink status and strength could change under a range of management actions and land-use change scenarios including different patterns and extents of habitat loss, restoration, demographic improvements from parasitism control, and increased frequencies inter-population movement.


We developed an empirically-rich, spatially explicit, individual-based model for the formerly endangered Black-capped vireo in Texas. We simulated the network-wide consequences of different kinds of changes and compared the resulting source-sink strength, status, and regional abundance across scenarios. We gauged source-sink stability by the degree to which system changes caused the reversal of source or sink status.


The stability of source-sink characterizations differed with the type of change. Source-sink dynamics were less responsive to small changes to population structure and changes that minimally affected demographic conditions. Source-sink status was most responsive to changes that affected habitat patterns and quality.


Accurately classifying sources and sinks is challenging, particularly in variable and directionally changing systems. The stability of source-sink classifications depends on the type of management or land-use change. Management actions may need to weigh interventions that improve regional abundance against those that alter regional source-sink dynamics as abundance and source-sink states can be sensitive to different kinds of change.

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adapted from Walker et al. 2016)

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We thank John Marzluff and Chad Wilsey for input and useful discussions.


Funding was provided by Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) as part of project RC-2120. The content of this manuscript does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the United States government and no official endorsement should be inferred.

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Correspondence to Julie A. Heinrichs.

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Heinrichs, J.A., Lawler, J.J., Schumaker, N.H. et al. Assessing source-sink stability in the context of management and land-use change. Landscape Ecol 34, 259–274 (2019).

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