Effects of branching spatial structure and life history on the asymptotic growth rate of a population

Emma E. Goldberg, Heather J. Lynch, Michael G. Neubert, William F. Fagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The dendritic structure of a river network creates directional dispersal and a hierarchical arrangement of habitats. These two features have important consequences for the ecological dynamics of species living within the network. We apply matrix population models to a stage-structured population in a network of habitat patches connected in a dendritic arrangement. By considering a range of life histories and dispersal patterns, both constant in time and seasonal, we illustrate how spatial structure, directional dispersal, survival, and reproduction interact to determine population growth rate and distribution. We investigate the sensitivity of the asymptotic growth rate to the demographic parameters of the model, the system size, and the connections between the patches. Although some general patterns emerge, we find that a species' modes of reproduction and dispersal are quite important in its response to changes in its life history parameters or in the spatial structure. The framework we use here can be customized to incorporate a wide range of demographic and dispersal scenarios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-152
Number of pages16
JournalTheoretical Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements We thank Evan H. C. Grant and the anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript. Funding for this work came from the James S. McDonnell Foundation (EEG, HJL, WFF). MGN was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (CMG-0530830, OCE-0326734, ATM-0428122).


  • Dispersal bias
  • Eigenvector analysis
  • Metapopulation
  • Spatial ecology


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