The spatial extent at which landscape structure best predicts population response, called the scale of effect, varies across species. An ability to predict the scale of effect of a landscape using species traits would make landscape study design more efficient and would enable landscape managers to plan at the appropriate scale. We used an individual based simulation model to predict how species traits influence the scale of effect. Specifically, we tested the effects of dispersal distance, reproductive rate, and informed movement behavior on the radius at which percent habitat cover best predicts population abundance in a focal area. Scale of effect for species with random movement behavior was compared to scale of effect for species with three (cumulative) levels of information use during dispersal: habitat based settlement, conspecific density based settlement, and gap-avoidance during movement. Consistent with a common belief among researchers, dispersal distance had a strong, positive influence on scale of effect. A general guideline for empiricists is to expect the radius of a landscape to be 4-9 times the median dispersal distance or 0. 3-0. 5 times the maximum dispersal distance of a species. Informed dispersal led to greater increases in population size than did increased reproductive rate. Similarly, informed dispersal led to more strongly decreased scales of effect than did reproductive rate. Most notably, gap-avoidance resulted in scales that were 0. 2-0. 5 times those of non-avoidant species. This is the first study to generate testable hypotheses concerning the mechanisms underlying the scale at which populations respond to the landscape.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Boundary behavior, Buffer, Edge-mediated dispersal, Focal patch, Habitat fragmentation, Habitat selection, Informed dispersal, Landscape context, Spatial scale
Persistent URL
Journal Landscape Ecology
Jackson, H.B. (Heather Bird), & Fahrig, L. (2012). What size is a biologically relevant landscape?. Landscape Ecology, 27(7), 929–941. doi:10.1007/s10980-012-9757-9