What are metapopulations and why is understanding them so important for conservation?

Metapopulations are interacting populations of the same species. This situation often occurs when resources are scattered within a region, and organisms are forced to settle only in the areas in which they have all the necessities for survival. These populations are close enough, however, for individuals to travel between these habitats. Because of this, there exists a constant immigration and emigration of individuals. In most cases, biotic factors such as competition for resources and mates drive individuals to migrate to other populations under less stress. This increases the survivorship of the species because resources can be distributed among individuals more effectively.

As human development continues, the interactions among these populations decrease. Pathways between habitats, commonly called habitat corridors are destroyed, and organisms can no longer travel from one place to the other. Excluding creatures with the ability to fly, animals travel is being inhibited by the construction of buildings, roads, damns and levies. It is essential that habitat corridors are maintained as well as individual habitats, so that populations can be most effective in their distributions.


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