3 years ago

Time since disturbance affects colonization dynamics in a metapopulation

Time since disturbance affects colonization dynamics in a metapopulation
Nora Underwood, Jessie Mutz, Brian D. Inouye
Disturbances are widespread in nature and can have substantial population-level consequences. Most empirical studies on the effects of disturbance track population recovery within habitat patches, but have an incomplete representation of the recolonization process. In addition, recent metapopulation models represent post-disturbance colonization with a recovery state or time-lag for disturbed (“focal”) patches, thus assuming that recolonization rates are uniform. However, the availability of colonists in neighbouring “source” patches can vary, especially in frequently disturbed landscapes such as fire-managed forests that have a mosaic of patches that differ in successional state and undergo frequent local extinctions. To determine how time since disturbance in both focal and neighbouring source patches might affect metapopulations, we studied the effects of time since fire (TSF) on abundances of a specialist palmetto beetle within and between fire management units in Apalachicola National Forest, Florida. We measured beetle abundances at three distances from the shared edge of paired units, with units ranging from 0 to 64 months since fire and the difference in time since burning for a focal-source pair ranging from 3 to 58 months. Soon after fire, beetle abundances within management units were highest near the unit edge, but this pattern changed with increasing TSF. Between paired units, the more recently disturbed (“focal”) unit's beetle abundance was positively related to source unit abundance, but the shape of this relationship differed based on focal unit TSF and the units’ difference in time since burning. Results suggest that both focal and source habitat history can influence recolonization of recently disturbed patches and that these effects may persist over years. Thus, when predicting metapopulation dynamics, variation in habitat characteristics should be considered not only for patches receiving colonists but for patches supplying colonists as well. This field study investigates the effects of fire on a metapopulation of herbivorous beetles at two scales: within and between habitat patches. The authors find that characteristics of both recently disturbed “focal” and neighbouring “source” patches influence post-disturbance recolonization and suggest that such variation in colonization rates should be incorporated into existing metapopulation theory.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12689

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