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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2012

Epiphyte metapopulation dynamics are explained by species traits, connectivity, and patch dynamics

Snäll, Tord; Johansson, Victor; Ranius, Thomas


The colonization-extinction dynamics of many species are affected by the dynamics of their patches. For increasing our understanding of the metapopulation dynamics of sessile species confined to dynamic patches, we fitted a Bayesian incidence function model extended for dynamic landscapes to snapshot data on five epiphytic lichens among 2083 mapped oaks (dynamic patches). We estimate the age at which trees become suitable patches for different species, which defines their niche breadth (number of suitable trees). We show that the colonization rates were generally low, but increased with increasing connectivity in accordance with metapopulation theory. The rates were related to species traits, and we show, for the first time, that they are higher for species with wide niches and small dispersal propagules than for species with narrow niches or large propagules. We also show frequent long-distance dispersal in epiphytes by quantifying the relative importance of local dispersal and background deposition of dispersal propagules. Local stochastic extinctions from intact trees were negligible in all study species, and thus, the extinction rate is set by the rate of patch destruction (tree fall). These findings mean that epiphyte metapopulations may have slow colonization-extinction dynamics that are explained by connectivity, species traits, and patch dynamics.


Bayesian inference; colonization-extinction dynamics; dispersal; incidence function model; lichens; niche breadth; patch-tracking metapopulation; tree age

Published in

2012, volume: 93, number: 2, pages: 235-241

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Johansson, Victor
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

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