Network modularity reveals critical scales for connectivity in ecology and evolution

Nature Communications
By: , and 



For nearly a century, biologists have emphasized the profound importance of spatial scale for ecology, evolution and conservation. Nonetheless, objectively identifying critical scales has proven incredibly challenging. Here we extend new techniques from physics and social sciences that estimate modularity on networks to identify critical scales for movement and gene flow in animals. Using four species that vary widely in dispersal ability and include both mark-recapture and population genetic data, we identify significant modularity in three species, two of which cannot be explained by geographic distance alone. Importantly, the inclusion of modularity in connectivity and population viability assessments alters conclusions regarding patch importance to connectivity and suggests higher metapopulation viability than when ignoring this hidden spatial scale. We argue that network modularity reveals critical meso-scales that are probably common in populations, providing a powerful means of identifying fundamental scales for biology and for conservation strategies aimed at recovering imperilled species.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Network modularity reveals critical scales for connectivity in ecology and evolution
Series title Nature Communications
DOI 10.1038/ncomms3572
Volume 4
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Publisher location London
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description 7 p.
First page 1
Last page 7
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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