Dispersal: a matter of scale

Morton, Elise R.; McGrady, Michael J.; Newton, Ian; Rollie, Chris J.; Smith, George D.; Mearns, Richard; Oli, Madan K.. 2018 Dispersal: a matter of scale. Ecology, 99 (4). 938-946.

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Population density around the natal site is often invoked as an explanation for variation in dispersal distance, with the expectation that competition for limiting resources, coupled with increased intra‐specific aggression at high densities, should drive changes in dispersal distances. However, tests of the density‐dependent dispersal hypothesis in long‐lived vertebrates have yielded mixed results. Furthermore, conclusions from dispersal studies may depend on the spatial and temporal scales at which density and dispersal patterns are examined, yet multi‐scale studies of dispersal are rare. Here, we present the findings of a long‐term study examining factors influencing natal dispersal distances for the non‐migratory population of Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) in the British Isles across distinct spatial and temporal scales. Our smallest scale study included Peregrines ringed as nestlings and subsequently recaptured alive in south Scotland–north England, an area that was intensively studied during the time periods 1974–1982 and 2002–2016. Second, we examined dispersal patterns of birds ringed as nestlings in south Scotland–north England, but subsequently recaptured alive or recovered dead anywhere in the British Isles. Finally, we examined the natal dispersal patterns for Peregrines ringed and recaptured or recovered anywhere in the British Isles from 1964 to 2016. Consistent with prior findings, females dispersed farther than males across all scales. However, the patterns of dispersal were strongly scale dependent. Specifically, we found a lack of a discernible relationship between index of density and dispersal distance in the limited study area, but when region‐wide recaptures and recoveries were included in the analyses, a negative relationship was revealed. Our results suggest that conclusions of dispersal studies may be scale dependent, highlighting the importance of spatial and temporal scales in examining and interpreting the relationship between population density and dispersal patterns.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 0012-9658
Additional Keywords: density-dependent dispersal hypothesis, dispersal distance, natal dispersal, peregrine falcon, raptor, spatial scale
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 04 Apr 2018 12:46 +0 (UTC)

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