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Bad neighbors: how spatially disjunct habitat degradation can cause system‐wide population collapse

Noonburg, Erik G., Byers, James E.
Ecology 2016 v.97 no.10 pp. 2858-2866
foraging, habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, habitats, landscapes, models, mortality, predation, predator-prey relationships, predators
Movement of individuals links the effects of local variation in habitat quality with growth and persistence of populations at the landscape scale. When the populations themselves are linked by interspecific interactions, such as predation, differential movement between habitats may lead to counterintuitive system‐wide dynamics. Understanding the interaction between local drivers and dynamics of widely dispersed species is necessary to predict the impacts of habitat fragmentation and degradation, which may be transmitted across habitat boundaries by species' movements. Here we model predator–prey interactions across unaltered and degraded habitat areas, and we explore the additional effects of adaptive habitat choice by predators on the resilience of prey populations. We show how movement between habitats can produce the “bad neighbor effect,” in which predators' response to localized habitat degradation causes system‐wide loss of prey populations. This effect arises because adaptive foraging results in the concentration of predators in the more productive unaltered habitat, even when this habitat can not support the increased prey mortality. The mechanisms underlying this effect are especially sensitive to prey dispersal rate and adaptive predator behavior.