Evans, Francis C. Division of Biological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
- Principal types of dispersion
- Analysis of dispersion
- Factors affecting dispersion
- Optimal population density
- Additional Reading
The spatial distribution at any particular moment of the individuals of a species of plant or animal. Under natural conditions organisms are distributed either by active movements, or migrations, or by passive transport by wind, water, or other organisms. The act or process of dissemination is usually termed dispersal, while the resulting pattern of distribution is best referred to as dispersion. Dispersion is a basic characteristic of populations, controlling various features of their structure and organization. It determines population density, that is, the number of individuals per unit of area, or volume, and its reciprocal relationship, mean area, or the average area per individual. It also determines the frequency, or chance of encountering one or more individuals of the population in a particular sample unit of area, or volume. The ecologist therefore studies not only the fluctuations in numbers of individuals in a population but also the changes in their distribution in space. See also: Population dispersal
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