Technical Comments

Response to Comment on "Metapopulation Persistence with Age-Dependent Disturbance or Succession"

Science  30 Apr 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5671, pp. 684
DOI: 10.1126/science.1096412

The comment by Dushoff (1) elaborates on the probabilistic arguments in (2) and provides a succinct explanation of the connection between patch age and the process of disturbance. The further expansion of the analogy to the Feller (3) example of buses cited in (2) also provides a heuristic explanation of Dushoff's results. The underlying view that colonizing species are most likely to be found in the patches that survive the longest just due to chance is worth further emphasis and consideration. Choosing the most valuable sites for conservation in a matrix of habitat needs to be done with caution, so that mere chance is not the only reason that some sites appear more valuable.

Despite the importance of the formulas in (1), it is also important to be cautious in applying these insights directly, or even indirectly, to field systems. The relationship among patch age, disturbance process, and metapopulation persistence will also depend critically on the temporal autocorrelation of the disturbance process, which was ignored in (1, 2). The incorporation of further details into metapopulation models that remove other underlying, often implicit and underappreciated assumptions, is a very promising avenue for further research.

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