Background/Question/Methods Understanding the factors that determine the persistence of populations in increasingly fragmented habitats is crucial as we seek to prevent the loss of global biodiversity. Soil microarthropods provide critical ecosystem services, playing roles in decomposition, carbon sequestration, and making nutrients available for plant growth. Yet we know little about the spatial dynamics of these organisms that will determine their persistence in increasingly fragmented habitats. Here, we tested whether species functional (movement) traits mediate the effects of the spatial configuration of habitat networks on the persistence of the microarthropod Folsomia candida.
Results/Conclusions We used a network modeling approach parameterized for Folsomia candida to show that the configuration of habitat networks (i.e., lattice, small world, or random) interacts with the shape of the dispersal kernel to influence the rate of spread and size of populations into fragmented habitats. A multi-generation experiment with Folsomia candida validated the predictions of our model. Population spread in F. candida occurred ~1.5× faster in lattice and small world networks than in random networks. Importantly, we find that demographic and spread processes in fragmented habitats are linked: population sizes were up to 3.2× greater in lattice and small world networks, respectively, than in random networks. Understanding how behavior translates into spread via species-specific dispersal kernels on distance-weighted habitat networks can greatly improve predictions about the persistence of spreading populations in fragmented landscapes.