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Information processing in models for density-dependent emigration: A comparison

Ecological Modelling
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2009.11.005
  • Individual-Based Simulation
  • Density-Dependent Dispersal
  • Information Processing
  • Evolutionary Contest
  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Mathematics


Abstract Density-dependent emigration has been recognized as a fitness enhancing strategy. Yet, especially in the modelling literature there is no consensus about how density-dependent emigration should quantitatively be incorporated into metapopulation models. In this paper we compare the performance of five different dispersal strategies (defined by the functional link between density and emigration probability). Four of these strategies are based on published functional relationships between local population density and emigration probability, one assumes density-independent dispersal. We use individual-based simulations of time-discrete metapopulation dynamics and conduct evolution experiments for a broad range of values for dispersal mortality and environmental stochasticity. For each set of these conditions we analyze the evolution of emigration rates in ‘monoculture experiments’ (with only one type of dispersal strategy used by all individuals in the metapopulation) as well as in selection experiments that allow a pair-wise comparison of the performance of each functional type. We find that a single-parameter ‘asymptotic threshold’ strategy – derived from the marginal value theorem – with a decelerating increase of emigration rate with increasing population density, out-competes any other strategy, i.e. density-independent emigration, a ‘linear threshold’ strategy and a flexible three-parameter strategy. Only when environmental conditions select for extremely high emigration probabilities (close to one), strategies may perform approximately equally. A simple threshold strategy derived for the case of continuous population growth performs even worse than the density-independent strategy. As the functional type of the dispersal function implemented in metapopulation models may severely affect predictions concerning the survival of populations, range expansion, or community changes we clearly recommend to carefully select adequate functions to model density-dependent dispersal.

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