Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Life Sciences, Biology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Evolution


Population extinction is a fundamental ecological process which may be aggravated by the exchange of organisms between productive (source) and unproductive (sink) habitat patches. The extent to which such source-sink exchange affects extinction rates is unknown. We conducted an experiment in which metapopulation effects could be distinguished from source-sink effects in laboratory populations of Daphnia magna. Time-to-extinction in this experiment was maximized at intermediate levels of habitat fragmentation, which is consistent with a minority of theoretical models. These results provided a baseline for comparison with experimental treatments designed to detect effects of concentrating resources in source patches. These treatments showed that source-sink configurations increased population variability (the coefficient of variation in abundance) and extinction hazard compared with homogeneous environments. These results suggest that where environments are spatially heterogeneous, accurate assessments of extinction risk will require understanding the exchange of organisms among population sources and sinks. Such heterogeneity may be the norm rather than the exception because of both the intrinsic heterogeneity naturally exhibited by ecosystems and increasing habitat fragmentation by human activity.