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Top predators often have large home ranges and thus are especially vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation. Increasing connectance among habitat patches is therefore a common conservation strategy, based in part on models showing that increased migration between subpopulations can reduce vulnerability arising from population isolation. Although three-dimensional models are appropriate for exploring consequences to top predators, the effects of immigration on tri-trophic interactions have rarely been considered. To explore the effects of immigration on the equilibrium abundances of top predators, we studied the effects of immigration in the three-dimensional Rosenzweig-MacArthur model. To investigate the stability of the top predator equilibrium, we used MATCONT to perform a bifurcation analysis. For some combinations of model parameters with low rates of top predator immigration, population trajectories spiral towards a stable focus. Holding other parameters constant, as immigration rate is increased, a supercritical Hopf bifurcation results in a stable limit cycle and thus top predator populations that cycle between high and low abundances. Furthermore, bistability arises as immigration of the intermediate predator is increased. In this case, top predators may exist at relatively low abundances while prey become extinct, or for other initial conditions, the relatively higher top predator abundance controls intermediate predators allowing for non-zero prey population abundance and increased diversity. Thus, our results reveal one of two outcomes when immigration is added to the model. First, over some range of top predator immigration rates, population abundance cycles between high and low values, making extinction from the trough of such cycles more likely than otherwise. Second, for relatively higher intermediate predator migration rates, top predators may exist at low values in a truncated system with impoverished diversity, again with extinction more likely.

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Theoretical Ecology, v. 8, p. 285-296