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Network topology and patch connectivity affect dynamics in experimental and model metapopulations


Arancibia, Paulina; Morin, Peter (2021), Network topology and patch connectivity affect dynamics in experimental and model metapopulations, Dryad, Dataset,


Biological populations are rarely isolated in space and instead interact with others via dispersal in metapopulations. Theory predicts that network connectivity patterns can have critical effects on network robustness, as certain topologies, such as scale-free networks, are more tolerant to disturbances than other patterns. However, at present, experimental evidence of how these topologies affect population dynamics in a metapopulation framework is lacking. We used experimental metapopulations of the aquatic protist Paramecium tetraurelia to determine how network topology influences occupation patterns. We created metapopulations engineered to be comparable in linkage density, but differing in their degree distribution. We compared random networks to scale-free networks by evaluating local population occupancy and abundance throughout 18-30 protist generations. In parallel, we used simulations to explore differences in patch occupation patterns among topologies. Under one scenario, random metapopulations of P. tetraurelia reached higher abundance and higher occupancy (proportion of occupied patches) compared to scale-free systems in both experimental and simulated systems, while in the other both types of metapopulations performed similarly. Increasing patch degree (i.e., number of connections per patch) reduced the probability of extinction of local populations in both types of networks. We suggest the interaction between colonization/extinction rates and network topology alters the likelihood of rescue effects which results in differential patterns of occupancy and abundance in metapopulations.