Connectivity or demography: Defining sources and sinks in coral reef fish metapopulations

Elsevier Science Bv
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Ecological Modelling, 2009, 220 (8), pp. 1126 - 1137
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The identity of an individual patch as a source or a sink within a metapopulation is a function of its ability to produce individuals and to disperse them to other patches. In marine systems patch identity is very often defined by dispersal ability alone-upstream patches are sources-while issues of variable habitat quality (which affects local production) are ignored. This can have important ramifications for the science of marine reserve siting. This study develops a spatially explicit source-sink metapopulation model for reef fish and uses it to evaluate the relative importance of connectivity versus demography and how this depends upon the level of local larval retention and the strength of density-dependent recruitment. Elasticity analyses indicated that patch contribution (source or sink) was more sensitive to demographic parameters (particularly survival) than connectivity and this effect was conserved even under strong levels of density-dependence and was generally strengthened as local retention increased. Variability in the relationship between parameter elasticity and local retention was shown to be dependent upon the magnitude of connectivity for an individual patch relative to a critical connectivity value. The proportion of larvae lost due to transport processes was an important parameter which directly affected the magnitude of this critical connectivity value. Patches with connectivity values less than the critical value contributed to the metapopulation largely via production (i.e., local demographics most important). As local retention increased, so did the importance of demographic parameters in these patches. Patches with connectivity values greater than the critical value contributed largely via dispersal of larvae and thus the importance of local demographics decreased as local retention increased.
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