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January 2010

Many experiments suggest that the sustainability of an ecosystem depends on its spatial structure; when a local subpopulation goes extinct the empty habitat patch is "rescued" by immigrants from nearby patches. Trying to protect endangered species via the construction of conservation corridors, the engineer faces a Goldilocks problem: weak migration does not allow for the rescue of empty patches; strong migration leads to spatial coherence and global extinction. In this work, the authors show that maximum sustainability is achieved when the migration rate is tuned to the value that yields a checkerboard spatial pattern (see Ben Zion et al., doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000643).

Image Credit: Gur Yaari (Yale University)

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