Biological Impacts on Spatial Patterns

As mentioned above, the dispersion pattern of individuals is affected by the structure of the landscape and the resource demands of the organism. Theoretically, if individuals were similar and completely free to move, they would be dispersed over the landscape so that each individual had the same access to the resource. This pattern is known as the ideal free distribution, and will simply reflect the instantaneous distribution of resources. However, differences between the competitive abilities of individuals, habitat barriers hindering free movement, and the individuals' lack of perfect knowledge about the distribution of resources all contribute to making examples of populations following the ideal free distribution rare in nature.

The behavior and life styles of organisms are extremely varied, and patterns of spatial distribution exhibit a great deal of variation. Mobile organisms move around in order to acquire resources and may also engage in social interactions with conspecifics. This means that behavioral choices play a profound role in shaping occurrence patterns. One of the most obvious cases of this effect is the congregation into cooperative flocks seen in many animal species. The exact nature of these flocks differs widely among organisms - from the loose aggregations of resting brent geese (Branta bernicla), via the socially complex cooperative units of wolf (Canis lupus) packs to the super-individual hive structure of eusocial insects.

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