Effects of habitat destruction and resource supplementation in a predator-prey metapopulation model

R K Swihart, Thomas M Gehring

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We developed a mean field, metapopulation model to study the consequences of habitat destruction on a predator-prey interaction. The model complements and extends earlier work published by Bascompte and Solé (1998, J. theor. Biol. 195, 383-393) in that it also permits use of alternative prey (i.e., resource supplementation) by predators. The current model is stable whenever coexistence occurs, whereas the earlier model is not stable over the entire domain of coexistence. More importantly, the current model permits an assessment of the effect of a generalist predator on the trophic interaction. Habitat destruction negatively affects the equilibrium fraction of patches occupied by predators, but the effect is most pronounced for specialists. The effect of habitat destruction on prey coexisting with predators is dependent on the ratio of extinction risk due to predation and prey colonization rate. When this ratio is less than unity, equilibrial prey occupancy of patches declines as habitat destruction increases. When the ratio exceeds one, equilibrial prey occupancy increases even as habitat destruction increases; i.e., prey "escape" from predation is facilitated by habitat loss. Resource supplementation reduces the threshold colonization rate of predators necessary for their regional persistence, and the benefit derived from resource supplementation increases in a nonlinear fashion as habitat destruction increases. We also compared the analytical results to those from a stochastic, spatially explicit simulation model. The simulation model was a discrete time analog of our analytical model, with one exception. Colonization was restricted locally in the simulation, whereas colonization was a global process in the analytical model. After correcting for differences between nominal and effective colonization rates, most of the main conclusions of the two types of models were similar. Some important differences did emerge, however, and we discuss these in relation to the need to develop fully spatially explicit analytical models. Finally, we comment on the implications of our results for community structure and for the conservation of prey species interacting with generalist predators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-303
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - 2001


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