American Society of Naturalists

A membership society whose goal is to advance and to diffuse knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles so as to enhance the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.

“Optimal network architectures for spatially structured populations with heterogeneous diffusion”

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Alfonso Ruiz-Herrera and Pedro J. Torres (July 2020)

We derive new management guidelines to maximize the population size in networks. The degree of mobility is the key

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The motivation of this paper is to derive new management guidelines to maximize the overall population size in popular strategies such as Marine Protected Areas and the construction of Ecological corridors. These guidelines are based on the identification of the network architecture(s) for which the total population size is maximized. Describing the biological role of the typical network variables in the fate of the population is a classical problem with many practical applications. This paper suggests that the optimal network architecture relies heavily on the degree of mobility of the population. The recommended network architecture for populations with reduced mobility (in the absence of cost of dispersal and landscapes made up of many sources) is a graph where a patch has routes towards any other patch with lower growth rates. However, for highly mobile populations, there are many possible network architectures for which the total population size is maximized, e.g., any cyclic graph. We have paid special attention to species with symmetric movement in heterogeneous landscapes. A striking result is that the network architecture does not have any influence on the total population size for highly mobile populations when any pair of different patches can be connected by a sequence of paths.