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The Evolution of Patch Selection in Stochastic Environments

Sebastian J. Schreiber
The American Naturalist
Vol. 180, No. 1 (July 2012), pp. 17-34
DOI: 10.1086/665655
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/665655
Page Count: 18
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The Evolution of Patch Selection in Stochastic Environments
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Abstract

AbstractA null model for habitat patch selection in spatially heterogeneous environments is the ideal free distribution (IFD), which assumes individuals have complete knowledge about the environment and can freely disperse. Under equilibrium conditions, the IFD predicts that local population growth rates are zero in all occupied patches, sink patches are unoccupied, and the fraction of the population selecting a patch is proportional to the patch’s carrying capacity. Individuals, however, often experience stochastic fluctuations in environmental conditions and cannot respond to these fluctuations instantaneously. An evolutionary stability analysis for fixed patch-selection strategies reveals that environmental uncertainty disrupts the classical IFD predictions: individuals playing the evolutionarily stable strategy may occupy sink patches, local growth rates are negative and typically unequal in all patches, and individuals prefer higher-quality patches less than predicted by their carrying capacities. Spatial correlations in environmental fluctuations can enhance or marginalize these trends. The analysis predicts that continually increasing environmental variation first selects for range expansion, then selects for persisting coupled sink populations, and ultimately leads to regional extinction. In contrast, continually increasing habitat degradation first selects for range contraction and may select for persisting coupled sink populations before regional extinction. These results highlight the combined roles of spatial and temporal heterogeneity on the evolution of habitat selection.

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