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Quantifying the contribution of habitats and pathways to a spatially structured population facing environmental change

June 11, 2020

The consequences of environmental disturbance and management are difficult to quantify for spatially structured populations because changes in one location carry through to other areas as a result of species movement. We develop a metric, G, for measuring the contribution of a habitat or pathway to network-wide population growth rate in the face of environmental change. This metric is different from other contribution metrics, as it quantifies effects of modifying vital rates for habitats and pathways in perturbation experiments. Perturbation treatments may range from small degradation or enhancement to complete habitat or pathway removal. We demonstrate the metric using a simple metapopulation example and a case study of eastern monarch butterflies. For the monarch case study, the magnitude of environmental change influences the ordering of node contribution. We find that habitats within which all individuals reside during one season are the most important to short-term network growth under complete removal scenarios, whereas the central breeding region contributes most to population growth over all but the strongest disturbances. The metric G provides for more efficient management interventions that proactively mitigate impacts of expected disturbances to spatially structured populations.

use changes in one location carry through to other areas due to species movement. We develop a metric, G, for measuring the contribution of a habitat or pathway to network-wide population growth rate in the face of environmental change. This metric is different than other contribution metrics as it quantifies effects of modifying vital rates for habitats and pathways in perturbation experiments. Perturbation treatments may range from small degradation or enhancement to complete habitat or pathway removal. We demonstrate the metric using a simple metapopulation example and a case study of eastern monarch butterflies. For the monarch case study, the magnitude of environmental change influences ordering of node contribution. We find that habitats through which all migrants flow are the most important to short-term network growth under complete-removal scenarios. The metric G provides for more efficient management interventions that proactively mitigate impacts of expected disturbances to spatially structured populations.