Local and regional determinants of colonisation-extinction dynamics of a riparian mainland-island root vole metapopulation
The role of local habitat geometry (habitat area and isolation) in predicting species distribution has become an increasingly more important issue, because habitat loss and fragmentation cause species range contraction and extinction. However, it has also become clear that other factors, in particular regional factors (environmental stochasticity and regional population dynamics), should be taken into account when predicting colonisation and extinction. In a live trapping study of a mainlandisland metapopulation of the root vole (Microtus oeconomus) we found extensive occupancy dynamics across 15 riparian islands, but yet an overall balance between colonisation and extinction over 4 years. The 54 live trapping surveys conducted over 13 seasons revealed imperfect detection and proxies of population density had to be included in robust design, multiseason occupancy models to achieve unbiased rate estimates. Island colonisation probability was parsimoniously predicted by the multi-annual density fluctuations of the regional mainland population and local island habitat quality, while extinction probability was predicted by island population density and the level of the recent flooding events (the latter being the main regionalized disturbance regime in the study system). Island size and isolation had no additional predictive power and thus such local geometric habitat characteristics may be overrated as predictors of vole habitat occupancy relative to measures of local habitat quality. Our results suggest also that dynamic features of the larger region and/or the metapopulation as a whole, owing to spatially correlated environmental stochasticity and/or biotic interactions, may rule the colonisation – extinction dynamics of boreal vole metapopulations. Due to high capacities for dispersal and habitat tracking voles originating from large source populations can rapidly colonise remote and small high quality habitat patches and re-establish populations that have gone extinct due to demographic (small population size) and environmental stochasticity (e.g. extreme climate events).
PublisherPublic Library of Science (PLoS)
CitationPLoS ONE (3013), vol. 8(2): e56462
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