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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Why we should care about movements: Using spatially explicit integrated population models to assess habitat source-sink dynamics

Paquet, Matthieu; Arlt, Debora; Knape, Jonas; Low, Matthew; Forslund, Par; Part, Tomas


Assessing the source-sink status of populations and habitats is of major importance for understanding population dynamics and for the management of natural populations. Sources produce a net surplus of individuals (per capita contribution to the metapopulation > 1) and will be the main contributors for self-sustaining populations, whereas sinks produce a deficit (contribution < 1). However, making these types of assessments is generally hindered by the problem of separating mortality from permanent emigration, especially when survival probabilities as well as moved distances are habitat-specific. To address this long-standing issue, we propose a spatial multi-event integrated population model (IPM) that incorporates habitat-specific dispersal distances of individuals. Using information about local movements, this IPM adjusts survival estimates for emigration outside the study area. Analysing 24 years of data on a farmland passerine (the northern wheatearOenanthe oenanthe), we assessed habitat-specific contributions, and hence the source-sink status and temporal variation of two key breeding habitats, while accounting for habitat- and sex-specific local dispersal distances of juveniles and adults. We then examined the sensitivity of the source-sink analysis by comparing results with and without accounting for these local movements. Estimates of first-year survival, and consequently habitat-specific contributions, were higher when local movement data were included. The consequences from including movement data were sex specific, with contribution shifting from sink to likely source in one habitat for males, and previously noted habitat differences for females disappearing. Assessing the source-sink status of habitats is extremely challenging. We show that our spatial IPM accounting for local movements can reduce biases in estimates of the contribution by different habitats, and thus reduce the overestimation of the occurrence of sink habitats. This approach allows combining all available data on demographic rates and movements, which will allow better assessment of source-sink dynamics and better informed conservation interventions.


dispersal; habitat quality; integrated population model; land use; Oenanthe oenanthe; population dynamics; sex differences; source-sink

Published in

Journal of Animal Ecology
2020, Volume: 89, number: 12, pages: 2922-2933
Publisher: WILEY