Wednesday, March 28, 2007


In 1969 and 1970, Richard Levins introduced the term “metapopulation” in his work on the biological control of pests (Hanski and Gilpin, 1997; Levins, 1969). He used models of migration, extinction, and local fluctuation to study the population processes of pests in a heterogenous environment (Levins, 1969). Levin’s work marked the beginning of contemporary metapopulation biology.

The literal meaning of the word metapopulation is a ‘population of populations’. Hanski and Gilpin (1997) define a metapopulation as a set of local populations within a larger area, where migration from one local population to other habitat patches are possible. These groups of local populations usually occur in suitable, discrete (i.e. separate and discontinuous) habitat patches that are scattered in a landscape. This spatial arrangement allows the populations to interact via the dispersal of individuals across a matrix of unsuitable habitat (Baguette and Schtickzelle, 2003). This ‘ensemble’ of populations results in dynamic interactions between local populations through migration (Marquet, 2002). These interactions are explained and interpreted by metapopulation modelling and theory.

Image 1. The Glanville fritillary butterfly
(Melitaea cinxia)

The aim of this forthcoming presentation will be to introduce metapopulation theory within the context of butterfly metapopulations. Butterflies will be used for the simple reason that their populations are often structured in space in a manner that is broadly consistent with the metapopulation concept. As a result the concept will be more clearly illustrated. This case study approach will furthermore highlight the relevance of the metapopulation concept to wildlife conservation and current environmental issues.


Baguette M,Schtickzelle N (2003) Local population dynamics are important to the conservation of metapopulations in highly fragmented landscapes. Journal of applied ecology 40: 404-412.

Hanski IA, Gilpin ME (1997)Metapopulation Biology- Ecology,Genetics, and Evolution. Academic press, San Diego. ISBN 0 12 323446 8

Levins,R (1969) Some demographic and genetic consequences of environmental heterogeneity. Entomological Society of America 15:237-240

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  • Hi Dane

    Looks very interesting. You certainly know your stuff!



    By Blogger davidvaughan, at March 28, 2007 5:05 PM  

  • Hi Dane

    Thanks for a description of your forth-coming presentation. Metapopulation being such a huge field I think it is wise to focus on one group and the butterflies are are paticularly interesting example of metapopulation dynamics.

    By Blogger Rich Knight, at April 01, 2007 1:00 PM  

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