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To date, there is a lack of well-controlled field experiments that disentangle the effects of the intervening matrix from other landscape variables (e.g., patch geography or quality) that might influence animal dispersal among patches. We performed a field experiment to investigate how the movement of a delphacid planthopper (Prokelisia crocea) among discrete patches of prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata) is affected by the composition of the matrix (mudflat, native nonhost grasses, and the introduced grass smooth brome [Bromus inermis]). Within each matrix type, marked planthoppers were released onto experimental cordgrass patches that were made identical in size, isolation, and host plant quality. We found that the emigration rate (planthoppers lost per patch per day) was 1.3 times higher for patches embedded in the two nonhost grass matrix types than for patches in mudflat. The rate of immigration (immigrants per patch per day) into patches isolated by 3 m was 5.4 times higher in the brome than in the mudflat matrix. Patches in the native grass matrix had intermediate immigration rates. In addition, a survey of planthopper distributions in nature revealed that both the within- and among-patch distributions of the planthopper were related to the composition of the matrix. Within patches, individuals accumulated against mudflat edges (relative to patch interiors) but not against nonhost grass edges. Among patches, incidence and density increased with the proportion of the matrix composed of open mud. The matrix was equal to that of patch geography (size and isolation) in its ability to explain the distribution of the planthopper. We suggest that the low permeability of the mudflat relative to a nonhost grass edge may explain these planthopper distributional patterns. Also, because natural cordgrass patches in mudflat were richer in nutrients than those in nonhost grasses, planthoppers may have been more likely to remain and build up densities on the former patches. We predict that the displacement of native matrix types by invasive brome will result in increased connectivity and greater spatial synchrony in densities of planthoppers among cordgrass patches.

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