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Environmentally mediated reproductive success predicts breeding dispersal decisions in an early successional amphibian
- Boualit, Laurent, Pichenot, Julian, Besnard, Aurélien, Helder, Rémi, Joly, Pierre, Cayuela, Hugo
- Animal behaviour 2019 v.149 pp. 107-120
- breeding, data collection, ecological succession, environmental factors, evolution, habitat destruction, immigration, interspecific competition, models, predation, probability, reproductive success, toads
- Dispersal is a central mechanism in ecology and evolution. Dispersal evolution is driven by a trade-off between costs and benefits, which is influenced by interindividual variability and local environmental conditions (context-dependent dispersal). Many studies have investigated how dispersal decisions may be influenced by environmental factors, including density, predation and interspecific competition. Yet few have attempted to examine how habitat disturbance may affect the dispersal process in spatially structured populations. In early successional species, one might expect individuals to adjust their dispersal decisions based on two main factors that potentially have an influence on reproductive success: patch size and the level of patch disturbance. In this study, we examined how these two factors affect breeding success and dispersal decisions in an early successional amphibian, the yellow-bellied toad, Bombina variegata. To this end, we used capture–recapture data collected on a spatially structured population occupying 28 breeding patches. We took advantage of recent developments in multievent capture–recapture models to detect signs of context-dependent dispersal. The results revealed that the probability of successful reproduction and the number of newly metamorphosed individuals increased with both the size and the proportion of disturbance of a patch. In addition, our results showed that the factors affecting breeding success also influenced breeding dispersal probability. Large patch size negatively influenced emigration probability; in contrast, it positively influenced immigration probability. Equally, higher disturbance had a strong negative influence on emigration probability and slightly positively affected immigration probability. These findings strongly suggest that individuals make context-dependent dispersal decisions, adjusted to maximize future fitness prospects in a patch, allowing them to better cope with rapid changes in environmental conditions resulting from the ecological succession process. This opens new areas of potential research into the role of dispersal in organism specialization along an ecological succession gradient.