SpatialDemography: a spatially explicit, stage-structured, metacommunity model

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Abstract

The responses of species and populations to changes in the environment (e.g. changes in climate and land use) are often complex and difficult to predict.

We have created the SpatialDemography model (R package: spatialdemography). The model is a spatially explicit, stage-structured, matrix-based metacommunity model, with the potential for modeling species' and populations' potential responses to environmental heterogeneity and change.

The SpatialDemography model assumes a cellular landscape populated by organisms with four life stages: a mobile dispersing stage, two sessile non-reproductive stages, and a reproductive adult stage. Individuals are assumed to originate at the center of a given cell and disperse according to a specified dispersal kernel (e.g. log-normal). All adult individuals are capable of producing offspring. The model approach and framework are described in the context of a hypothetical example with multiple competing species in a four cell landscape. In this example simulation, both spatial location and species interactions were important for understanding population dynamics.

SpatialDemography can be applied to questions where an understanding of transient and long-term demographic responses to spatiotemporal changes is desired. It is primarily applicable to metapopulations and metacommunities of organisms with early dispersal and sessile adults (i.e. modular organisms such as plants and some marine organisms). SpatialDemography differs from other population models in that it is spatially explicit, can incorporate biotic interactions, and is implemented in R.

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