Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program



Philip Johns

Abstract/Artist's Statement

By reducing habitat connectivity and availability, landscape fragmentation can have a strong effect on biological communities. Since empirical studies in community ecology can require long-term surveys and include large numbers of variables, it is often more efficient to study these systems with predictive mathematical models. Using a dataset from a large-scale study of experimental fragmentation in plant communities as a guide, I created an ordinary differential equation model to describe community dynamics in an array of isolated patches. Both between-patch dispersal and within-patch competition can affect the rate of change in population size of any discrete patch in the array. After developing the mathematical model, I treated it as a linear system (within a small timeframe) and estimated the growth rates, competition coefficients, and influences from source habitats using two species (Solidago canadensis and Cornus drummondii) from an experimental dataset. With these parameters, I calculated a theoretical array of patch communities, which I compared to the empirical fragmentation dataset. Unlike many previous models, mine emphasizes the effects of dispersal range and between-patch distances.

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