Metapopulations function and persist through a combination of processes acting at a variety of spatial scales. Although the contributions of stage structure, spatially correlated processes and the rescue effect to metapopulation dynamics have been investigated in isolation, there is no empirical demonstration of all of these processes shaping dynamics in a single system. Dispersal and settlement differ according to the life stage involved and therefore stage specific population size may outperform total population size when predicting colonization-extinction dynamics. Synchrony in patch dynamics can lead to accelerated metapopulation extinction although empirical evidence of the interplay between correlated colonization events and correlated extinctions is lacking. Likewise, few empirical examples exist that provide compelling evidence of migration acting to reduce extinction risk (the rescue effect). We parameterize a hierarchy of metapopulation models to investigate these predictions using a 7 year study of a naturally occurring water vole metapopulation. Specifically, we demonstrate the importance of local stage structure in predicting both colonization and extinction events using juvenile and adult population sizes respectively. Using a novel approach for quantifying correlation in extinction events, we compare the scale of synchrony in colonization and extinction. Strikingly, the scale of dispersal acting to synchronize colonization was an order of magnitude larger than that of correlated extinctions (halving distance of the effect = 12.40km and 0.89km respectively). Additionally, we find compelling evidence for the existence of a non-trivial rescue effect. We provide a novel empirical demonstration of a variety of metapopulation processes operating at multiple spatial scales, further emphasizing the need to consider stage structure and local synchrony in the dynamics of spatially dependent, stage structured (meta) populations.
Sutherland, C., Elston, D. A., & Lambin, X. (2012). Multi-scale processes in metapopulations: Contributions of stage structure, rescue effect, and correlated extinctions. Ecology, 93(11), 2465-2473. https://doi.org/10.1890/12-0172.1