Habitat structure and population persistence in an experimental community

Abstract

Understanding spatial population dynamics is fundamental for many questions in ecology and conservation1,2,3,4. Many theoretical mechanisms have been proposed whereby spatial structure can promote population persistence, in particular for exploiter–victim systems (host–parasite/pathogen, predator–prey) whose interactions are inherently oscillatory and therefore prone to extinction of local populations5,6,7,8,9,10,11. Experiments have confirmed that spatial structure can extend persistence11,12,13,14,15,16, but it has rarely been possible to identify the specific mechanisms involved. Here we use a model-based approach to identify the effects of spatial population processes in experimental systems of bean plants (Phaseolus lunatus), herbivorous mites (Tetranychus urticae) and predatory mites (Phytoseiulus persimilis). On isolated plants, and in a spatially undivided experimental system of 90 plants, prey and predator populations collapsed; however, introducing habitat structure allowed long-term persistence. Using mechanistic models, we determine that spatial population structure did not contribute to persistence, and spatially explicit models are not needed. Rather, habitat structure reduced the success of predators at locating prey outbreaks, allowing between-plant asynchrony of local population cycles due to random colonization events.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Experimental layouts and results.
Figure 2: Examples of mite population dynamics on a single plant, from run B of the metapopulation experiment.
Figure 3: Total prey and predator mite densities in consecutive replicate runs of the simulation models.
Figure 4: Summary measures of temporal patterns in model output and experimental results.

References

  1. 1

    Tilman, D. & Kareiva, P. (eds) Spatial Ecology: the Role of Space in Population Dynamics and Interspecific Interactions (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, 1997).

  2. 2

    Dieckmann, U., Law, R. & Metz, J. A. J. (eds) The Geometry of Ecological Interactions: Simplifying Spatial Complexity (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2000).

  3. 3

    Hanski, I. A. & Gilpin, M. E. (eds) Metapopulation Biology: Ecology, Genetics, and Evolution (Academic, San Diego, 1997).

  4. 4

    Levin, S. A., Grenfell, B., Hastings, A. & Perelson, A. S. Mathematical and computational challenges in population biology and ecosystems science. Science 275, 334–343 (1997).

  5. 5

    May, R. M. Host–parasitoid systems in patchy environments: a phenomenological model. J. Anim. Ecol. 47, 833–843 (1978).

  6. 6

    Sabelis, M. W. & Diekmann, O. Overall population stability despite local extinction: the stabilizing effect of prey dispersal from predator-invaded patches. Theor. Popul. Biol. 34, 169–176 (1988).

  7. 7

    Hassell, M. P. & May, R. M. Spatial heterogeneity and the dynamics of parasitoid–host systems. Ann. Zool. Fenn. 25, 55–61 (1988).

  8. 8

    Hassell, M. P., Comins, H. N. & May, R. M. Spatial structure and chaos in insect population dynamics. Nature 353, 255–258 (1991).

  9. 9

    de Roos, A. M., McCauley, E. & Wilson, W. Mobility versus density limited predator–prey dynamics on different spatial scales. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 246, 117–122 (1991).

  10. 10

    Sabelis, M. W., Diekmann, O. & Jansen, V. A. A. Metapopulation persistence despite local extinction—predator–prey patch models of the Lotka-Volterra type. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 42, 267–283 (1991).

  11. 11

    Murdoch, W. W. Population regulation in theory and practice. Ecology 75, 271–287 (1994).

  12. 12

    Huffaker, C. B., Shea, K. P. & Herman, S. G. Experimental studies on predation: complex dispersion and levels of food in an acarine predator–prey interaction. Hilgardia 34, 305–330 (1963).

  13. 13

    van de Klashorst, G., Readshaw, G. L., Sabelis, M. W. & Lingeman, R. A demonstration of asynchronous local cycles in an acarine predator–prey system. Exp. Appl. Acarol. 14, 185–199 (1992).

  14. 14

    Holyoak, M. & Lawler, S. P. Persistence of an extinction prone predator–prey interaction through metapopulation dynamics. Ecology 77, 1867–1879 (1996).

  15. 15

    Janssen, A., van Gool, E., Lingeman, R., Jacas, J. & van de Klashorst, G. Metapopulation dynamics of a persisting predator–prey system in the laboratory: time-series analysis. Exp. Appl. Acarol. 21, 415–430 (1997).

  16. 16

    Holyoak, M. Habitat patch arrangement and metapopulation persistence of predators and prey. Am. Nat. 156, 378–389 (2000).

  17. 17

    Pels, B. & Sabelis, M. W. Local dynamics, overexploitation and predator dispersal in an acarine predator–prey system. Oikos 86, 573–583 (1999).

  18. 18

    McCauley, E. et al. Inferring colonization processes from population dynamics in spatially structured predator–prey systems. Ecology 81, 3350–3361 (2000).

  19. 19

    McCauley, E., de Roos, A. M. & Wilson, W. Dynamics of age- and spatially-structured predator–prey interactions: individual based models and population level formulations. Am. Nat. 142, 412–442 (1993).

  20. 20

    de Roos, A. M., McCauley, E. & Wilson, W. Pattern formation and the spatial scale of interactions between predators and their prey. Theor. Popul. Biol. 53, 108–130 (1998).

  21. 21

    Nisbet, R. M. & Gurney, W. S. C. Modelling Fluctuating Populations Ch. 10 (Wiley, New York, 1982).

  22. 22

    Helle, W. & Sabelis, M. W. (eds) Spider Mites, their Biology, Natural Enemies, and Control (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1985).

  23. 23

    Sabelis, M. W. & van der Meer, J. in Dynamics of Physiologically Structured Populations (eds Metz, J. A. J. & Diekmann, O.) 322–344 (Springer, New York, 1986).

  24. 24

    Hastings, A. Spatial heterogeneity and stability of predator–prey systems. Theor. Popul. Biol. 12, 37–48 (1977).

  25. 25

    Wright, S. Isolation by distance. Genetics 28, 114–138 (1943).

  26. 26

    Gurney, W. S. C., Nisbet, R. M. & Lawton, J. H. The systematic formulation of tractable single-species population models incorporating age structure. J. Anim. Ecol. 52, 479–495 (1983).

  27. 27

    Caswell, H. Matrix Population Models: Construction, Analysis, and Interpretation (Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Massachusetts, 2001).

  28. 28

    Sabelis, M. W. How to analyze prey preference when prey density varies? A new method to discriminate between effects of gut fullness and prey type composition. Oecologia 82, 289–298 (1990).

  29. 29

    Sabelis, M. W. & Nagelkerke, C. J. Sex allocation strategies of pseudoarrhenotokous phytoseiid mites. Neth. J. Zool. 37, 117–136 (1987).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank E. van Gool for assistance with the experiments. This work was undertaken as part of the Working Group on Complex Population Dynamics at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a centre funded by the US National Science Foundation, University of California–Santa Barbara, and the State of California. A.J. and M.W.S. carried out experiments; E.M., B.E.K., C.J.B. and S.N.W. conceived and fitted colonization models; S.P.E., S.N.W., P.R.H., A.J., P.T., R.M.N. and W.W.N. conceived and fitted structured population models; S.P.E., P.R.H., S.N.W. and C.J.B. implemented the models; S.P.E., E.M. and B.E.K. carried out comparisons of models with data; and S.P.E., E.M., A.J., M.W.S. and P.R.H. prepared the original manuscript.

Author information

Correspondence to Stephen P. Ellner.

Supplementary information

Metapopulation swapping experiments

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.