Experimental beetle metapopulations respond positively to dynamic landscapes and reduced connectivity

Byju N. Govindan, Robert K. Swihart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Interactive effects of multiple environmental factors on metapopulation dynamics have received scant attention. We designed a laboratory study to test hypotheses regarding interactive effects of factors affecting the metapopulation dynamics of red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum. Within a four-patch landscape we modified resource level (constant and diminishing), patch connectivity (high and low) and patch configuration (static and dynamic) to conduct a 2 3 factorial experiment, consisting of 8 metapopulations, each with 3 replicates. For comparison, two control populations consisting of isolated and static subpopulations were provided with resources at constant or diminishing levels. Longitudinal data from 22 tri-weekly counts of beetle abundance were analyzed using Bayesian Poisson generalized linear mixed models to estimate additive and interactive effects of factors affecting abundance. Constant resource levels, low connectivity and dynamic patches yielded greater levels of adult beetle abundance. For a given resource level, frequency of colonization exceeded extinction in landscapes with dynamic patches when connectivity was low, thereby promoting greater patch occupancy. Negative density dependence of pupae on adults occurred and was stronger in landscapes with low connectivity and constant resources; these metapopulations also demonstrated greatest stability. Metapopulations in control landscapes went extinct quickly, denoting lower persistence than comparable landscapes with low connectivity. When landscape carrying capacity was constant, habitat destruction coupled with low connectivity created asynchronous local dynamics and refugia within which cannibalism of pupae was reduced. Increasing connectivity may be counter-productive and habitat destruction/recreation may be beneficial to species in some contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere34518
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 3 2012

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