German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Movement, metacommunities and spatial networks

Many natural landscapes are characterized by a patchy distribution of habitats that are separated by a less-inhabitable landscape matrix. Examples of these spatial structures include (1) agricultural landscapes with forest fragments, ponds and small grasslands as patches within large areas that are dominated by intensively used fields or plantations; (2) lakes that are are surrounded by terrestrial ecosystems and (3) islands in the ocean. The local communities of these patches are not isolated but coupled by species dispersal. This yields metacommunities composed of the species across all habitat patches. Moreover, the habitat patches are linked by species movement creating spatial habitat networks.

What constrains the movement of species?

Movement is one of the most fundamental processes of life linking individuals with their resources, mating partners and resting sites. Why are the movement rates so different between species? We analyze how this variance is explained by movement modes (running, flying, swimming) and species' body masses and how this yields systematic patterns in spatial networks.  The movement theory is linked to natural movement trajectories by fitting Bayesian state-space models to unravel the importance of landscape characteristics for individual movement. Currently, the vast majority of movement trajectories is available for vertebrates. We aim at complementing this with data on invertebrate movement by employing camera systems in the laboratory (Dell et al. 2014) as well as passive sensor techniques in the field.


Dell, A. I. et al. 2014. Automated image-based tracking and its application in ecology. - Trends Ecol. Evol. 29: 417–428.

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