Costs of dispersal

Dries Bonte, Hans Van Dyck, James M. Bullock, Aurelie Coulon, Maria Delgado, Melanie Gibbs, Valerie Lehouck, Erik Matthysen, Karin Mustin, Marjo Saastamoinen, Nicolas Schtickzelle, Virginie M. Stevens, Sofie Vandewoestijne, Michel Baguette, Kamil Barton, Tim G. Benton, Audrey Chaput-Bardy, Jean Clobert, Calvin Dytham, Thomas HovestadtChristoph M. Meier, Stephen Charles Frederick Palmer, Camille Turlure, Justin M. J. Travis

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

911 Citations (Scopus)


Dispersal costs can be classified into energetic, time, risk and opportunity costs and may be levied directly or deferred during departure, transfer and settlement. They may equally be incurred during life stages before the actual dispersal event through investments in special morphologies. Because costs will eventually determine the performance of dispersing individuals and the evolution of dispersal, we here provide an extensive review on the different cost types that occur during dispersal in a wide array of organisms, ranging from micro-organisms to plants, invertebrates and vertebrates. In general, costs of transfer have been more widely documented in actively dispersing organisms, in contrast to a greater focus on costs during departure and settlement in plants and animals with a passive transfer phase. Costs related to the development of specific dispersal attributes appear to be much more prominent than previously accepted. Because costs induce trade-offs, they give rise to covariation between dispersal and other life-history traits at different scales of organismal organisation. The consequences of (i) the presence and magnitude of different costs during different phases of the dispersal process, and (ii) their internal organisation through covariation with other life-history traits, are synthesised with respect to potential consequences for species conservation and the need for development of a new generation of spatial simulation models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-312
Number of pages23
JournalBiological Reviews
Issue number2
Early online date19 Sept 2011
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


  • settlement
  • transfer
  • departure
  • trade-offs
  • fitness
  • global change
  • modelling
  • plants
  • micro-organisms
  • invertebrates
  • vertebrates
  • marine
  • aquatic
  • terrestrial
  • movement
  • cricket-gryllus-firmus
  • wing-polymorphic cricket
  • ideal free distribution
  • ascidian diplosoma-listerianum
  • condition-dependent dispersal
  • butterfly pararge-aegeria
  • parasite local adaptation
  • milkweed bugs oncopeltus
  • bivalve macoma-balthica
  • long-distance dispersal


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