Understanding how dispersal influences connectivity and overcomes fragmentation for Water Voles in the Assynt, Scotland
Dr. Chris Sutherland
How populations respond to fragmentation, or are able to persist in a fragmented state, depends crucially on the ability of individuals to balance inevitable local extinctions through the process of movement/dispersal based recolonization: connectivity! One of the great difficulties, however, is the ability to formally quantify connectivity in a manner that allows predictions to be made over space and across time. Part of this difficulty is the fact that connectivity can broadly be defined in different ways, e.g., by animal movement (functional connectivity), by the structure of the landscape (structural connectivity), or emerging as a multi-generation process of dispersal (genetic connectivity). Using a large and long term metapopulation study of water voles in the Assynt, in North West Scotland, UK (Fig. 2), we have a rare opportunity to quantify each of these classical measure of connectivity in order to assess which provides the best predictor of colonization-extinction dynamics in this unique system. The project aims to combine detection/non-detection data, demographic data from live trapping, and genetic data from tissue samples, to better understand the spatial processes underpinning metapopulation dynamics.
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