Dispersal and extinction in fragmented landscapes

Chris D Thomas

Abstract

Evolutionary and population dynamics models suggest that the migration rate will affect the probability of survival in fragmented landscapes. Using data for butterfly species in the fragmented British landscape and in immediately adjoining areas of the European continent, this paper shows that species of intermediate mobility have declined most, followed by those of low mobility, whereas high–mobility species are generally surviving well. Compared to the more sedentary species, species of intermediate mobility require relatively large areas where they breed at slightly lower local densities. Intermediate mobility species have probably fared badly through a combination of metapopulation (extinction and colonization) dynamics and the mortality of migrating individuals which fail to find new habitats in fragmented landscapes. Habitat fragmentation is likely to result in the non–random extinction of populations and species characterized by different levels of dispersal, although the details are likely to depend on the taxa, habitats and regions considered.