Optimizing metapopulation sustainability through a checkerboard strategy

Yossi Ben Zion, Gur Yaari, Nadav M. Shnerb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The persistence of a spatially structured population is determined by the rate of dispersal among habitat patches. If the local dynamic at the subpopulation level is extinction-prone, the system viability is maximal at intermediate connectivity where recolonization is allowed, but full synchronization that enables correlated extinction is forbidden. Here we developed and used an algorithm for agent-based simulations in order to study the persistence of a stochastic metapopulation. The effect of noise is shown to be dramatic, and the dynamics of the spatial population differs substantially from the predictions of deterministic models. This has been validated for the stochastic versions of the logistic map, the Ricker map and the Nicholson-Bailey host-parasitoid system. To analyze the possibility of extinction, previous studies were focused on the attractiveness (Lyapunov exponent) of stable solutions and the structure of their basin of attraction (dependence on initial population size). Our results suggest that these features are of secondary importance in the presence of stochasticity. Instead, optimal sustainability is achieved when decoherence is maximal. Individual-based simulations of metapopulations of different sizes, dimensions and noise types, show that the system's lifetime peaks when it displays checkerboard spatial patterns. This conclusion is supported by the results of a recently published Drosophila experiment. The checkerboard strategy provides a technique for the manipulation of migration rates (e.g., by constructing corridors) in order to affect the persistence of a metapopulation. It may be used in order to minimize the risk of extinction of an endangered species, or to maximize the efficiency of an eradication campaign.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1000643
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 22 Jan 2010


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