Habitat geometry, population viscosity and the rate of genetic drift

Justin Mark John Travis, T. H. G. Ezard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


In all natural populations, individuals located close to one another tend to interact more than those further apart. The extent of population viscosity can have important implications for ecological and evolutionary processes. Here we develop a spatially explicit population model to examine how the rate of genetic drift depends upon both spatial population structure and habitat geometry. The results show that the time to fixation for a new and selectively neutral mutation is dramatically increased in viscous populations. Furthermore, in viscous populations the time to fixation depends critically on habitat geometry. Fixation time for populations of identical size increases markedly as landscape width decreases and length increases. We suggest that similar effects will also be important in metapopulations, with the spatial arrangement of subpopulations and their connectivity likely to determine the rate of drift. We argue that the recent increases in computer power should facilitate major advances in our understanding of evolutionary landscape ecology over the next few years, and suggest that the time is ripe for a unification of spatial population dynamics theory, landscape ecology and population genetics. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-161
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Informatics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


  • genetic drift
  • metapopulation viscosity
  • habitat geometry
  • extinction thresholds
  • molecular evolution
  • persistence
  • dispersal
  • selection
  • destruction
  • diversity
  • equations
  • distance
  • space


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