DOI: 0812.0712Dec 3, 2008Paper

A new perspective on the dynamics of fragmented populations

Anders Eriksson


Understanding the time evolution of fragmented animal populations and their habitats, connected by migration, is a problem of both theoretical and practical interest. This paper presents a method for calculating the time evolution of the habitats' population size distribution from a general stochastic dynamic within each habitat, using a deterministic approximation which becomes exact for an infinite number of habitats. Fragmented populations are usually thought to be characterized by a separation of time scale between, on the one hand, colonization and extinction of habitats and, on the other hand, the local population dynamics within each habitat. The analysis in this paper suggests an alternative view: the effective population dynamic stems from a law of large numbers, where stochastic fluctuations in population size of single habitats are buffered through the dispersal pool so that the global population dynamic remains approximately smooth. For illustration, the deterministic approximation is compared to simulations of a stochastic model with density dependent local recruitment and mortality. The article is concluded with a discussion of the general implications of the results, and possible extensions of the method.

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