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Incorporating the connectivity timescale in metapopulation partitioning
journal contributionposted on 21.06.2021, 23:08 by Christopher Aiken, Sergio A Navarrete
The often complex spatial patterns of propagule dispersal across a metapopulation present a challenge for species management, motivating efforts to represent the connectivity in simpler but meaningful ways. The reduction of complexity may be achieved by partitioning the metapopulation into groups of highly connected patches called “subpopulations.” To have relevance for management, these subunits must be defined from ecological or evolutionary principles. The probabilities of dispersal-mediated propagule interchange between sites, commonly organized into a connectivity matrix, entail a timescale that is usually ignored in subpopulation analyses, limiting their utility and possibly leading to misinterpretation and wrong management decisions. Recognition of the essentially dynamical role played by metapopulation connectivity naturally leads to the incorporation of the generational timescale into the partitioning analysis. An algorithm is proposed to determine the subpopulations—both their cardinality and their composition—as a function of the generational timescale and of a limiting probability of connection, illustrated with a novel empirical estimate of mesopelagic connectivity. The proposed framework allows the unambiguous determination of the timescales corresponding to dispersal barriers and the identification of effective ecological units across the spectrum of management-relevant time horizons.