The evolution of dispersal in reserve networks

Marissa L. Baskett, Joshua S. Weitz, Simon Asher Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The fragmentation of an environment into developed and protected areas may influence selection pressure on dispersal by increasing the chance of moving from a favorable to an unfavorable habitat. We theoretically explore this possibility through two cases: (1) marine systems in which reduced predation and/or increased feeding drive the evolution of planktonic larval duration and (2) more generally, where stochasticity in reproductive yield drives the evolution of the proportion of offspring dispersing. Model results indicate that habitat fragmentation generally shifts selection pressure toward reduced dispersal, particularly when areas outside reserves are uninhabitable. However, shifts to increased dispersal may occur when temporal heterogeneity is the primary selective force and constant-quota harvest occurs outside reserves. In addition, model results suggest the potential for changes in the genetic variability in dispersal after habitat fragmentation. The predicted evolutionary changes in dispersal will depend on factors such as the relative genetic and environmental contributions to dispersal-related traits and the extent of anthropogenic impacts outside reserves. If the predicted evolutionary changes are biologically attainable, they may suggest altering current guidelines for the appropriate size and spacing of marine reserves necessary to achieve conservation and fisheries goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-78
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Evolution of dispersal
  • Game theory
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Marine protected areas
  • Reserves


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