Individual heterogeneity in dispersal as a driver of spatial ecological dynamics

01 January 2017 → 31 December 2020
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Other biological sciences
    • Other natural sciences
Spatial ecological dynamics
Project description

Dispersal is the movement of organisms that can alter gene flow. While being an individual behaviour, it is typically studied at the population level, and averaged over all individuals to make predictions on processes like range expansion, invasions and population persistence. There is however increasing evidence of the importance of individual variation for spatial dynamics. This variation may be related to dispersal distance (e.g., disproportional impact of long distance dispersers on range expansion) or associated traits (e.g., the phenotype –for example individual physiological condition defining dispersal costs and thus success). This implies that to better understand spatial dynamics, we need to embrace this variation, rather than treating it as unwanted noise. During a four year study, we will test two hypotheses on the contribution of individual variation on spatial population dynamics, using Tetranychus urticae as a model species. These hypotheses are (a) that dispersive and philopatric individuals differ in a suite of traits, according to local experienced conditions, and (b) that this results in different spatial ecological dynamics. We will thus compare dispersive and philopatric individuals for an unseen array of traits and test, by directly manipulating and replicating metapopulations, the effect of this variation on a spectrum of spatial dynamics relevant to global change.