Source–sink dynamics within a complex life history

Winsor H. Lowe, Brett R. Addis, Madaline M. Cochrane, Leah K. Swartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Source–sink patch dynamics occur when movement from sources stabilizes sinks by compensating for low local vital rates. The mechanisms underlying source–sink dynamics may be complicated in species that undergo transitions between discrete life stages, particularly when stages have overlapping habitat requirements and similar movement abilities. In these species, for example, the demographic effects of movement by one stage may augment or offset the effects of movement by another stage. We used a stream salamander system to investigate patch dynamics within this form of complex life history. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that the salamander Gyrinophilus porphyriticus experiences source–sink dynamics in riffles and pools, the dominant geomorphic patch types in headwater streams. We estimated stage-specific survival probabilities in riffles and pools and stage-specific movement probabilities between the two patch types using 8 years of capture–recapture data on 4491 individuals, including premetamorphic larvae and postmetamorphic adults. We then incorporated survival and movement probabilities into a stage-structured, two-patch model to determine the demographic interactions between riffles and pools. Monthly survival probabilities of both stages were higher in pools than in riffles. Larvae were more likely to move from riffles to pools, but adults were more likely to move from pools to riffles, despite experiencing much lower survival in riffles. In simulations, eliminating interpatch movements by both stages indicated that riffles are sinks that rely on immigration from pools for stability. Allowing only larvae to move stabilized both patch types, but allowing only adults to move destabilized pools due to the demographic cost of adult emigration. These results indicated that larval movement not only stabilizes riffles, but also offsets the destabilizing effects of maladaptive adult movement. Similar patch dynamics may emerge in any structured population in which movement and local vital rates differ by age, size, or stage. Addressing these forms of internal demographic structure in patch dynamics analyses will help to refine and advance general understanding of spatial ecology.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3991
Pages (from-to)e3991
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • amphibian
  • capture–mark–recapture
  • geomorphology
  • life history
  • movement ecology
  • salamander
  • stream
  • survival
  • Humans
  • Probability
  • Ecology
  • Urodela
  • Animals
  • Larva
  • Ecosystem
  • Population Dynamics


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