16 - Contribution of source–sink theory to protected area science  pp. 339-360

Contribution of source–sink theory to protected area science

By Andrew Hansen

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The concept of source–sink population dynamics may be especially relevant to protected areas. Places set aside as nature reserves often have steep gradients in climate, topography, and other abiotic factors that result in spatially explicit population dynamics occurring within them. Protected areas are also frequently placed in relatively extreme parts of the landscape with regard to climate, soils, elevation, and water. Consequently, spatially explicit population dynamics may occur between protected areas and the more moderate surrounding landscape. The goal of this chapter is to evaluate the contribution that source–sink theory has made to understanding population viability in and around protected areas. A review of the literature for the past 20 years indicates that the source–sink concept has been applied to protected areas primarily in three ways.

  • Protected areas may be sinks for some species, due to the more extreme biophysical conditions within them. These sink populations may be vulnerable to loss of source areas in unprotected surrounding lands. Land use intensification around reserves may drive the degradation of these sources and reduce viability of the species in the protected area.
  • The areas surrounding protected areas may become “attractive” sinks due to human activities and lead to loss of viability of the source population. Large carnivores appear to be especially vulnerable to this dynamic.
  • Protected areas may serve as population source areas that supplement hunted or fished populations in surrounding areas. Many marine protected areas have been designated as a means of allowing more sustainable fisheries in surrounding waters.

I summarize the conceptual basis of each of these scenarios, provide examples, and draw implications for conservation and management.

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