Seasonality in Environment and Population Processes Alters Population Spatial Synchrony
Population spatial synchrony—the tendency for temporal population fluctuations to be correlated across locations—is common and important to metapopulation stability and persistence. One common cause of spatial synchrony, termed the Moran effect, occurs when populations respond to environmental fluctuations, such as weather, that are correlated over space. Although the degree of spatial synchrony in environmental fluctuations can differ between seasons and different population processes occur in different seasons, the impact on population spatial synchrony is uncertain because prior work has largely assumed that the spatial synchrony of environmental fluctuations and their effect on populations are consistent over annual sampling intervals. We used theoretical models to examine how seasonality in population processes and the spatial synchrony of environmental drivers affect population spatial synchrony. We found that population spatial synchrony can depend not only on the spatial synchrony of environmental drivers but also on the degree to which environmental fluctuations are correlated across seasons, locally, and across space. Moreover, measurements of synchrony from “snapshot” population censuses may not accurately reflect synchrony during other parts of the year. Together, these results show that neglecting seasonality in environmental conditions and population processes is consequential for understanding population spatial synchrony and its driving mechanisms.