Dispersal

Biological dispersal refers to species movement away from an existing population or away from the parent organism. Through simply moving from one habitat patch to another, the dispersal of an individual has consequences not only for individual fitness, but also for population dynamics, population genetics, and species distribution.[1][2][3] Understanding dispersal and the consequences both for evolutionary strategies at a species level, and for processes at an ecosystem level, requires understanding on the type of dispersal, the dispersal range of a given species, and the dispersal mechanisms involved. Biological dispersal may be contrasted with geodispersal, which is the mixing of previously isolated populations (or whole biotas) following the erosion of geographic barriers to dispersal or gene flow (Lieberman, 2005;[4][5]Albert and Reis, 2011[6]). At some time during its life, an organism, whether animal or plant, moves, or is moved, so that it or its offspring do not die exactly where they were born. Such movement is called dispersal. Some organisms are motile throughout their lives, but others are adapted to move or be moved at precise, limited phases of their life cycles. This is commonly called the dispersive phase of the life cycle. The strategies of organisms' entire life cycles often are predicated on the nature and circumstances of their dispersive phases. In general there are two basic types of dispersal: Density independent dispersal Organisms have evolved adaptations for dispersal that take advantage of various forms of kinetic energy occurring naturally in the environment. This is referred to as density independent or passive dispersal and operates on many groups of organisms (some invertebrates, fish, insects and sessile organisms such as plants) that depend on animal vectors, wind, gravity or current for dispersal.[7][8] Density dependent dispersal Density dependent or active dispersal for many animals largely depends on factors such as local population size, resource competi ion, habitat quality, and habitat size.[9][10] Due to population density, dispersal may relieve pressure for resources in an ecosystem, and competition for these resources may be a selection factor for dispersal mechanisms.[11] Dispersal of organisms is a critical process for understanding both geographic isolation in evolution through gene flow and the broad patterns of current geographic distributions (biogeography). [edit]Dispersal range "Dispersal range" refers to the distance a species can move from an existing population or the parent organism. An ecosystem depends critically on the ability of individuals and populations to disperse from one habitat patch to another. Therefore, biological dispersal is critical to the stability of ecosystems. Environmental constraints Few species are ever evenly or randomly distributed within or across landscapes. In general, species significantly vary across the landscape in association with environmental features that influence their reproductive success and population persistence.[12][13] Spatial patterns in environmental features (e.g. resources) permit individuals to escape unfavorable conditions and seek out new locations.[14] This allows the organism to "test" new environments for their suitability, provided they are within animal's geographic range. In addition, the ability of a species to disperse over a gradually changing environment could enable a population to survive extreme conditions. (i.e. climate change). [edit]Dispersal barriers A dispersal barrier may mean that the dispersal range of a species is much smaller than the species distribution. An artificial example is habitat fragmentation due to human land use. Natural barriers to dispersal that limit species distribution include mountain ranges and rivers. An example is the separation of the ranges of the two species of chimpanzee by the Congo River. On the other hand, human activities may also expand the dispersal range of a species by providing new dispersal methods (e.g., ships).