Spatial ecology of cactus bugs: Area constraints and patch connectivity

Robert L. Schooley, John A. Wiens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the effects of landscape structure on the distribution of organisms in subdivided habitat is central to spatial ecology and conservation biology. We investigated how suitable habitat patches and the intervening matrix influenced the incidence and abundance of cactus bugs (Chelinidea vittiger) on their naturally patchy host plant, plains prickly pear (Opuntia polyacantha). We compared responses of three life stages of C. vittiger on two landscapes with different matrix properties in Colorado, USA. Patch area and abundances of C. vittiger exhibited a limiting-factor relationship that we estimated with quantile regression. Chelinidea vittiger density in patches was negatively related to patch area for all life stages and landscapes. Our results supported predictions from the "under-matching hypothesis," which suggests that limited knowledge of resource patches is one determinant of abundance patterns. Multiple regression models of occupancy and abundance indicated that (1) the amount of explained variance depended greatly on the measured response variable and on the life stage of the insect, (2) metrics of patch connectivity had more support in models of abundance than of presence-absence in patches, (3) patch area had an interactive effect with patch connectivity in most abundance models, and (4) a "matrix-matters" measure of connectivity received only mixed support when included in abundance models for a landscape with a heterogeneous matrix. A model that included only the two priority variables in basic metapopulation models (patch area and patch connectivity) was insufficient for understanding distribution patterns of C. vittiger in patchy landscapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1627-1639
Number of pages13
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Chelinidea vittiger
  • Connectivity
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Limiting factor
  • Matrix heterogeneity
  • Metapopulation
  • Opuntia
  • Patch area
  • Quantile regression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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