Spatial structure and dispersal dynamics in a house sparrow metapopulation
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionJournal of Animal Ecology. 2021, 90 2767-2781. 10.1111/1365-2656.13580
The effects of spatial structure on metapopulation dynamics depend upon the interaction between local population dynamics and dispersal, and how this relationship is affected by the geographical isolation and spatial heterogeneity in habitat characteristics. Our aim is to examine how emigration and immigration of house sparrows Passer domesticus in a Norwegian archipelagic metapopulation are affected by key factors predicted by classic metapopulation models to affect dispersal—spatial and temporal variation in population size, inter-island distance, local demography and habitat characteristics. This metapopulation can be divided into two major habitat types: (a) islands closer to the mainland where sparrows breed in colonies on farms, and (b) islands without farms, situated farther away from the mainland where sparrows are exposed to harsher environmental conditions. Dispersal was spatially structured within the metapopulation; there was proportionally and numerically less emigration and immigration involving farm islands, as compared to non-farm islands. Furthermore, emigration and immigration occurred mostly between nearby islands. Moreover, emigration in response to spatial differences in mean population size differed between the habitat types, but populations with large mean received more immigrants in both habitat types. The number of emigrants and immigrants was negatively related to long-term recruit production, which was not the case in non-farm islands. The proportion and number of emigrants was positively related to temporal increases in recruit production on farm islands, however not on non-farm islands. Our results demonstrate that spatial heterogeneity in environmental conditions influences how spatial variation in long-term mean population size, and temporal and spatial variation in recruit production, affects dispersal dynamics. The spatial structure of this metapopulation is therefore best described by a spatially explicit model in which the exchange of individuals within each habitat type is strongly affected by the degree of geographical isolation, population size and recruit production. However, these relationships differed between the two habitat types; non-farm islands showing similarities to a mainland-island model type of structure, whereas farm islands showed features more associated with source–sink or balanced dispersal models. Such differential dispersal dynamics between habitat types are expected to have important consequences for the ecological and evolutionary dynamics within this metapopulation.