Populations of range expanding species encounter patches of both favorable and unfavorable habitat as they spread across landscapes. Theory shows that increasing patchiness slows the spread of populations modeled with continuously varying population density when dispersal is not influence by the environment or individual behavior. However, as is found in uniformly favorable landscapes, spread remains driven by fecundity and dispersal from low density individuals at the invasion front. In contrast, when modeled populations are composed of discrete individuals, patchiness causes populations to build up to high density before dispersing past unsuitable habitat, introducing an important influence of density dependence on spread velocity. To test the hypothesized interaction between habitat patchiness and density dependence, we simultaneously manipulated these factors in a greenhouse system of annual plants spreading through replicated experimental landscapes. We found that increasing the size of gaps and amplifying the strength of density dependence both slowed spread velocity, but contrary to predictions, the effect of amplified density dependence was similar across all landscape types. Our results demonstrate that the discrete nature of individuals in spreading populations has a strong influence on how both landscape patchiness and density dependence influence spread through demographic and dispersal stochasticity. Both finiteness and landscape structure should be critical components to theoretical predictions of future spread for range expanding native species or invasive species colonizing new habitat.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- demographic stochasticity
- density dependence
- habitat heterogeneity