Mechanistic modelling of animal dispersal offers new insights into range expansion dynamics across fragmented landscapes

Greta Bocedi*, Damaris Zurell, Björn Reineking, Justin M J Travis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Understanding and predicting the dynamics of range expansion is a major topic in ecology both for invasive species extending their ranges into non-native regions and for species shifting their natural distributions as a consequence of climate change. In an increasingly modified landscape, a key question is 'how do populations spread across patchy landscapes?' Dispersal is a central process in range expansion and while there is a considerable theory on how the shape of a dispersal kernel influences the rate of spread, we know much less about the relationships between emigration, movement and settlement rules, and invasion rates. Here, we use a simple, single species individual-based model that explicitly simulates animal dispersal to establish how density-dependent emigration and settlement rules interact with landscape characteristics to determine spread rates. We show that depending on the dispersal behaviour and on the risk of mortality in the matrix, increasing the number of patches does not necessarily maximise the spread rate. This is due to two effects: first, individuals dispersing at the expanding front are likely to exhibit lower net-displacement as they typically do not travel far before finding a patch; secondly, with increasing availability of high quality habitat, density-dependence in emigration and settlement can decrease the number of emigrants and their net-displacement. The rate of spread is ultimately determined by the balance between net travelled distance, the dispersal mortality and the number of dispersing individuals, which in turn depend on the interaction between the landscape and the species' dispersal behaviour. These results highlight that predicting spread rates in heterogeneous landscapes is a complex task and requires better understanding of the rules that individuals use in emigration, transfer and settlement decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1240-1253
Number of pages14
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


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