Habitat area and isolation have been useful predictors of species occupancy and turnover in highly fragmented systems. However, habitat quality also can influence occupancy dynamics, especially in patchy systems where habitat selection can be as important as stochastic demographic processes. We studied the spatial population dynamics of Chrysemys picta (painted turtle) in a network of 90 wetlands in Illinois, USA from 2007 to 2009. We first evaluated the relative influence of metapopulation factors (area, isolation) and habitat quality of focal patches on occupancy and turnover. Next, we tested the effect of habitat quality of source patches on occupancy and turnover at focal patches. Turnover was common with colonizations (n = 16) outnumbering extinctions (n = 10) between the first 2 years, and extinctions (n = 16) outnumbering colonizations (n = 3) between the second 2 years. Both metapopulation and habitat quality factors influenced C. picta occupancy dynamics. Colonization probability was related positively to spatial connectivity, wetland area, and habitat quality (wetland inundation, emergent vegetation cover). Extinction probability was related negatively to wetland area and emergent vegetation cover. Habitat quality of source patches strongly influenced initial occupancy but not turnover patterns. Because habitat quality for freshwater turtles is related to wetland hydrology, a change from drought to wet conditions during our study likely influenced distributional shifts. Thus, effects of habitat quality of source and focal patches on occupancy can vary in space and time. Both metapopulation and habitat quality factors may be needed to understand occupancy dynamics, even for species exhibiting patchy population structures.
- Environmental stochasticity
- Landscape structure
- Target effect
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Nature and Landscape Conservation