Intermediate disturbance in experimental landscapes improves persistence of beetle metapopulations

Byju N. Govindan, Zhilan Feng, Yssa D. Dewoody, Robert K. Swihart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Human-dominated landscapes often feature patches that fluctuate in suitability through space and time, but there is little experimental evidence relating the consequences of dynamic patches for species persistence. We used a spatially and temporally dynamic metapopulation model to assess and compare metapopulation capacity and persistence for red flour beetles (Tribolium castaneum) in experimental landscapes differentiated by resource structure, patch dynamics (destruction and restoration), and connectivity. High connectivity increased the colonization rate of beetles, but this effect was less pronounced in heterogeneous relative to homogeneous landscapes. Higher connectivity and faster patch dynamics increased extinction rates in landscapes. Lower connectivity promoted density-dependent emigration. Heterogeneous landscapes containing patches of different carrying capacity enhanced landscape-level occupancy probability. The highest metapopulation capacity and persistence was observed in landscapes with heterogeneous patches, low connectivity, and slow patch dynamics. Control landscapes with no patch dynamics exhibited rapid declines in abundance and approached extinction due to increased adult mortality in the matrix, higher pupal cannibalism by adults, and extremely low rates of exchange between remaining habitable patches. Our results highlight the role of intermediate patch dynamics, intermediate connectivity, and the nature of density dependence of emigration for persistence of species in heterogeneous landscapes. Our results also demonstrate the importance of incorporating local dynamics into the estimation of metapopulation capacity for conservation planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)728-736
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the Ecological Society of America.


  • Dispersal range
  • Metapopulation capacity
  • Occupancy
  • Patch connectivity
  • Patch dynamics
  • Red flour beetle
  • Resource heterogeneity
  • Tribolium castaneum


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