Emergent Properties of Patch Shapes Affect Edge Permeability to Animals
Nams, Vilis O.
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Animal travel between habitat patches affects populations, communities and ecosystems. There are three levels of organization of edge properties, and each of these can affect animals. At the lowest level are the different habitats on each side of an edge, then there is the edge itself, and finally, at the highest level of organization, is the geometry or structure of the edge. This study used computer simulations to (1) find out whether effects of edge shapes on animal behavior can arise as emergent properties solely due to reactions to edges in general, without the animals reacting to the shapes of the edges, and to (2) generate predictions to allow field and experimental studies to test mechanisms of edge shape response. Individual animals were modeled traveling inside a habitat patch that had different kinds of edge shapes (convex, concave and straight). When animals responded edges of patches, this created an emergent property of responding to the shape of the edge. The response was mostly to absolute width of the shapes, and not the narrowness of them. When animals were attracted to edges, then they tended to collect in convexities and disperse from concavities, and the opposite happened when animals avoided edges. Most of the responses occurred within a distance of 40% of the perceptual range from the tip of the shapes. Predictions were produced for directionality at various locations and combinations of treatments, to be used for testing edge behavior mechanisms. These results suggest that edge shapes tend to either concentrate or disperse animals, simply because the animals are either attracted to or avoid edges, with an effect as great as 3 times the normal density. Thus edge shape could affect processes like pollination, seed predation and dispersal and predator abundance.
Nams, Vilis O.. 2011. "Emergent Properties of Patch Shapes Affect Edge Permeability to Animals." Plos One 6(7): 21886-e21886. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021886
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