Understanding the dynamics of metapopulations close to extinction is of vital importance for management. Levins-like models, in which local patches are treated as either occupied or empty, have been used extensively to explore the extinction dynamics of metapopulations, but they ignore the important role of local population dynamics. In this paper, we consider a stochastic metapopulation model where local populations follow a stochastic, density-dependent dynamics (the Ricker model), and use this framework to investigate the behaviour of the metapopulation on the brink of extinction. We determine under which circumstances the metapopulation follows a time evolution consistent with Levins’ dynamics. We derive analytical expressions for the colonisation and extinction rates (c and e) in Levins-type models in terms of reproduction, survival and dispersal parameters of the local populations, providing an avenue to parameterising Levins-like models from the type of information on local demography that is available for a number of species. To facilitate applying our results, we provide a numerical algorithm for computing c and e.
Financial support by Vetenskapsradet, by the Goran Gustafsson Foundation for Research in Natural Sciences and Medicine, and by CeMEB are gratefully acknowledged. FEW wishes to thank the Centro Internacional de Ciencias in Cuernavaca for its hospitality during an extended stay.