Persistence of Aquatic Insects across Managed Landscapes: Effects of Landscape Permeability on Re-Colonization and Population Recovery

Nika Galic, Geerten M. Hengeveld, Paul J. van den Brink, Amelie Schmolke, Pernille Thorbek, Eric Bruns, Hans M. Baveco

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26 Scopus citations


Human practices in managed landscapes may often adversely affect aquatic biota, such as aquatic insects. Dispersal is often the limiting factor for successful re-colonization and recovery of stressed habitats. Therefore, in this study, we evaluated the effects of landscape permeability, assuming a combination of riparian vegetation (edge permeability) and other vegetation (landscape matrix permeability), and distance between waterbodies on the colonization and recovery potential of weakly flying insects. For this purpose, we developed two models, a movement and a population model of the non-biting midge, Chironomus riparius, an aquatic insect with weak flying abilities. With the movement model we predicted the outcome of dispersal in a landscape with several linear water bodies (ditches) under different assumptions regarding landscape-dependent movement. Output from the movement model constituted the probabilities of encountering another ditch and of staying in the natal ditch or perishing in the landscape matrix, and was used in the second model. With this individual-based model of midge populations, we assessed the implications for population persistence and for recovery potential after an extreme stress event. We showed that a combination of landscape attributes from the movement model determines the fate of dispersing individuals and, once extrapolated to the population level, has a big impact on the persistence and recovery of populations. Population persistence benefited from low edge permeability as it reduced the dispersal mortality which was the main factor determining population persistence and viability. However, population recovery benefited from higher edge permeability, but this was conditional on the low effective distance that ensured fewer losses in the landscape matrix. We discuss these findings with respect to possible landscape management scenarios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere54584
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 30 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors have read the journal’s policy and have the following conflicts: two out of seven co-authors are employed in commercial companies, namely Syngenta Ltd. and Bayer CropScience. The PhD of the corresponding author is partly supported by the two companies. Please rest assured that this has not affected a fully objective representation of the work described in the submitted manuscript. This does not alter the authors’ adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.


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