Asymmetric migration decreases stability but increases resilience in a heterogeneous metapopulation.
ABSTRACT: Many natural populations are spatially distributed, forming a network of subpopulations linked by migration. Migration patterns are often asymmetric and heterogeneous, with important consequences on the ecology and evolution of the species. Here we investigate experimentally how asymmetric migration and heterogeneous structure affect a simple metapopulation of budding yeast, formed by one strain that produces a public good and a non-producer strain that benefits from it. We study metapopulations with star topology and asymmetric migration, finding that all their subpopulations have a higher fraction of producers than isolated populations. Furthermore, the metapopulations have lower tolerance to challenging environments but higher resilience to transient perturbations. This apparent paradox occurs because tolerance to a constant challenge depends on the weakest subpopulations of the network, while resilience to a transient perturbation depends on the strongest ones.
Project description:Ecological traps occur when environmental changes cause maladaptive habitat selection. Despite their relevance to metapopulations, ecological traps have been studied predominantly at local scales. How these local impacts scale up to affect the dynamics of spatially structured metapopulations in heterogeneous landscapes remains unexplored. We propose that assessing the metapopulation consequences of traps depends on a variety of factors that can be grouped into four categories: the probability of encounter, the likelihood of selection, the fitness costs of selection and species-specific vulnerability to these costs. We evaluate six hypotheses using a network-based metapopulation model to explore the relative importance of factors across these categories within a spatial context. Our model suggests (i) traps are most severe when they represent a large proportion of habitats, severely reduce fitness and are highly attractive, and (ii) species with high intrinsic fitness will be most susceptible. We provide the first evidence that (iii) traps may be beneficial for metapopulations in rare instances, and (iv) preferences for natal-like habitats can magnify the effects of traps. Our study provides important insight into the effects of traps at landscape scales, and highlights the need to explicitly consider spatial context to better understand and manage traps within metapopulations.
Project description:The Scandinavian wolf population descends from only five individuals, is isolated, highly inbred and exhibits inbreeding depression. To meet international conservation goals, suggestions include managing subdivided wolf populations over Fennoscandia as a metapopulation; a genetically effective population size of Ne?500, in line with the widely accepted long-term genetic viability target, might be attainable with gene flow among subpopulations of Scandinavia, Finland and Russian parts of Fennoscandia. Analytical means for modeling Ne of subdivided populations under such non-idealized situations have been missing, but we recently developed new mathematical methods for exploring inbreeding dynamics and effective population size of complex metapopulations. We apply this theory to the Fennoscandian wolves using empirical estimates of demographic parameters. We suggest that the long-term conservation genetic target for metapopulations should imply that inbreeding rates in the total system and in the separate subpopulations should not exceed ?f=0.001. This implies a meta-Ne of NeMeta?500 and a realized effective size of each subpopulation of NeRx?500. With current local effective population sizes and one migrant per generation, as recommended by management guidelines, the meta-Ne that can be reached is ~250. Unidirectional gene flow from Finland to Scandinavia reduces meta-Ne to ~130. Our results indicate that both local subpopulation effective sizes and migration among subpopulations must increase substantially from current levels to meet the conservation target. Alternatively, immigration from a large (Ne?500) population in northwestern Russia could support the Fennoscandian metapopulation, but immigration must be substantial (5-10 effective immigrants per generation) and migration among Fennoscandian subpopulations must nevertheless increase.
Project description:Synthesising the relationships between complexity, connectivity, and the stability of large biological systems has been a longstanding fundamental quest in theoretical biology and ecology. With the many exciting developments in modern network theory, interest in these issues has recently come to the forefront in a range of multidisciplinary areas. Here we outline a new theoretical analysis specifically relevant for the study of ecological metapopulations focusing primarily on marine systems, where subpopulations are generally connected via larval dispersal. Our work determines the qualitative and quantitative conditions by which dispersal and network structure control the persistence of a set of age-structured patch populations. Mathematical modelling combined with a graph theoretic analysis demonstrates that persistence depends crucially on the topology of cycles in the dispersal network which tend to enhance the effect of larvae "returning home." Our method clarifies the impact directly due to network structure, but this almost by definition can only be achieved by examining the simplified case in which patches are identical; an assumption that we later relax. The methodology identifies critical migration routes, whose presence are vital to overall stability, and therefore should have high conservation priority. In contrast, "lonely links," or links in the network that do not participate in a cyclical component, have no impact on persistence and thus have low conservation priority. A number of other intriguing criteria for persistence are derived. Our modelling framework reveals new insights regarding the determinants of persistence, stability, and thresholds in complex metapopulations. In particular, while theoretical arguments have, in the past, suggested that increasing connectivity is a destabilizing feature in complex systems, this is not evident in metapopulation networks where connectivity, cycles, coherency, and heterogeneity all tend to enhance persistence. The results should be of interest for many other scientific contexts that make use of network theory.
Project description:Understanding mechanisms of biodiversity has been a central question in ecology. The coexistence of three species in rock-paper-scissors (RPS) systems are discussed by many authors; however, the relation between coexistence and network structure is rarely discussed. Here we present a metapopulation model for RPS game. The total population is assumed to consist of three subpopulations (nodes). Each individual migrates by random walk; the destination of migration is randomly determined. From reaction-migration equations, we obtain the population dynamics. It is found that the dynamic highly depends on network structures. When a network is homogeneous, the dynamics are neutrally stable: each node has a periodic solution, and the oscillations synchronize in all nodes. However, when a network is heterogeneous, the dynamics approach stable focus and all nodes reach equilibriums with different densities. Hence, the heterogeneity of the network promotes biodiversity.
Project description:The Levins model is a classical but still widely used metapopulation model that describes temporal changes in the regional abundance of a species by extinction and colonization of subpopulations. A fundamental assumption of the model is that the landscape is homogeneous and the species moves between identical patches at random. However, this assumption clearly contrasts with the common observation that different stages prefer or require different habitat types. Here I studied a minimum extension of the Levins model in which the species has stage-specific (juvenile and adult) spatial distributions and dispersal occurs at the timing of reproduction and maturation (i.e., ontogenetic habitat shifts). I examined how the persistence of the stage-structured metapopulations would be affected by rescue effect and interspecific competition. The models predict that rates of ontogenetic habitat shifts are particularly crucial for the persistence or coexistence of stage-structured metapopulations because the species need to complete biphasic life cycles. The present study opens a new avenue for exploring stage- and space-structured population dynamics and will contribute to better landscape management for the conservation of stage-structured animals.
Project description:Intraspecific population diversity (specifically, spatial asynchrony of population dynamics) is an essential component of metapopulation stability and persistence in nature. In 2D systems, theory predicts that metapopulation stability should increase with ecosystem size (or habitat network size): Larger ecosystems will harbor more diverse subpopulations with more stable aggregate dynamics. However, current theories developed in simplified landscapes may be inadequate to predict emergent properties of branching ecosystems, an overlooked but widespread habitat geometry. Here, we combine theory and analyses of a unique long-term dataset to show that a scale-invariant characteristic of fractal river networks, branching complexity (measured as branching probability), stabilizes watershed metapopulations. In riverine systems, each branch (i.e., tributary) exhibits distinctive ecological dynamics, and confluences serve as "merging" points of those branches. Hence, increased levels of branching complexity should confer a greater likelihood of integrating asynchronous dynamics over the landscape. We theoretically revealed that the stabilizing effect of branching complexity is a consequence of purely probabilistic processes in natural conditions, where within-branch synchrony exceeds among-branch synchrony. Contrary to current theories developed in 2D systems, metapopulation size (a variable closely related to ecosystem size) had vague effects on metapopulation stability. These theoretical predictions were supported by 18-y observations of fish populations across 31 watersheds: Our cross-watershed comparisons revealed consistent stabilizing effects of branching complexity on metapopulations of very different riverine fishes. A strong association between branching complexity and metapopulation stability is likely to be a pervasive feature of branching networks that strongly affects species persistence during rapid environmental changes.
Project description:The spatial dispersal of individuals plays an important role in the dynamics of populations, and is central to metapopulation theory. Dispersal provides connections within metapopulations, promoting demographic and evolutionary rescue, but may also introduce maladapted individuals, potentially lowering the fitness of recipient populations through introgression of heritable traits. To explore this dual nature of dispersal, we modify a well-established eco-evolutionary model of two locally adapted populations and their associated mean trait values, to examine recruiting salmon populations that are connected by density-dependent dispersal, consistent with collective migratory behaviour that promotes navigation. When the strength of collective behaviour is weak such that straying is effectively constant, we show that a low level of straying is associated with the highest gains in metapopulation robustness and that high straying serves to erode robustness. Moreover, we find that as the strength of collective behaviour increases, metapopulation robustness is enhanced, but this relationship depends on the rate at which individuals stray. Specifically, strong collective behaviour increases the presence of hidden low-density basins of attraction, which may serve to trap disturbed populations, and this is exacerbated by increased habitat heterogeneity. Taken as a whole, our findings suggest that density-dependent straying and collective migratory behaviour may help metapopulations, such as in salmon, thrive in dynamic landscapes. Given the pervasive eco-evolutionary impacts of dispersal on metapopulations, these findings have important ramifications for the conservation of salmon metapopulations facing both natural and anthropogenic contemporary disturbances.This article is part of the theme issue 'Collective movement ecology'.
Project description:Although connectivity can promote host species persistence in a metapopulation, dispersal may also enable disease transmission, an effect further complicated by the impact that parasite distribution may have on host-parasite population dynamics. We investigated the effects of connectivity and initial parasite distribution (clustered or dispersed) on microparasite-host dynamics in experimental metapopulations, using guppies and Gyrodactylus turnbulli We created metapopulations of guppies divided into four subpopulations and introduced either a low level of parasites to all subpopulations (dispersed) or a high level of parasites to one subpopulation (clustered). Controlled migration among subpopulations occurred every 10 days. In additional trials, we introduced low or high levels of parasites to isolated populations. Parasites persisted longer in metapopulations than in isolated populations. Mortality was lowest in isolated populations with low-level introductions. The interaction of connectivity and initial parasite distribution influenced parasite abundance. With low-level introductions, connectivity helped the parasite persist longer but had little effect on the hosts. With high levels, connectivity also benefited the hosts, lowering parasite burdens. These findings have implications for disease management and species conservation.
Project description:From agriculture to public health to civil engineering, managing antimicrobial resistance presents a considerable challenge. The dynamics underlying resistance evolution reflect inherently spatial processes. Resistant pathogen strains increase in frequency when a strain that emerges in one locale can spread and replace pathogen subpopulations formerly sensitive to the antimicrobial agent. Moreover, the strength of selection for antimicrobial resistance is in part governed by the extent of antimicrobial use. Thus, altering how antimicrobials are used across a landscape can potentially shift the spatial context governing the dynamics of antimicrobial resistance and provide a potent management tool. Here, we model how the efficacy of adjusting antimicrobial use over space to manage antimicrobial resistance is mediated by competition among pathogen strains and the topology of pathogen metapopulations. For several pathogen migration scenarios, we derive critical thresholds for the spatial extent of antimicrobial use below which resistance cannot emerge, and relate these thresholds to (a) the ability to eradicate antimicrobial-sensitive pathogens locally and (b) the strength of the trade-off between resistance ability and competitive performance where antimicrobial use is absent. We find that in metapopulations where patches differ in connectedness, constraining antimicrobial use across space to mitigate resistance evolution only works if the migration of the resistant pathogen is modest; yet, this situation is reversed if the resistant strain has a high colonization rate, with variably connected metapopulations exhibiting less sensitivity to reducing antimicrobial use across space. Furthermore, when pathogens are alternately exposed to sites with and without the antimicrobial, bottlenecking resistant strains through sites without an antimicrobial is only likely to be effective under a strong competition-resistance trade-off. We therefore identify life-history constraints that are likely to suggest which pathogens can most effectively be controlled by a spatially targeted antimicrobial regime. We discuss implications of our results for managing and thinking about antimicrobial resistance evolution in spatially heterogeneous contexts.
Project description:High levels of antibiotic tolerance are a hallmark of bacterial biofilms. In contrast to well-characterized inherited antibiotic resistance, molecular mechanisms leading to reversible and transient antibiotic tolerance displayed by biofilm bacteria are still poorly understood. The physiological heterogeneity of biofilms influences the formation of transient specialized subpopulations that may be more tolerant to antibiotics. In this study, we used random transposon mutagenesis to identify biofilm-specific tolerant mutants normally exhibited by subpopulations located in specialized niches of heterogeneous biofilms. Using Escherichia coli as a model organism, we demonstrated, through identification of amino acid auxotroph mutants, that starved biofilms exhibited significantly greater tolerance towards fluoroquinolone ofloxacin than their planktonic counterparts. We demonstrated that the biofilm-associated tolerance to ofloxacin was fully dependent on a functional SOS response upon starvation to both amino acids and carbon source and partially dependent on the stringent response upon leucine starvation. However, the biofilm-specific ofloxacin increased tolerance did not involve any of the SOS-induced toxin-antitoxin systems previously associated with formation of highly tolerant persisters. We further demonstrated that ofloxacin tolerance was induced as a function of biofilm age, which was dependent on the SOS response. Our results therefore show that the SOS stress response induced in heterogeneous and nutrient-deprived biofilm microenvironments is a molecular mechanism leading to biofilm-specific high tolerance to the fluoroquinolone ofloxacin.