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Merkle, J. A., Abrahms, B., J. B. Armstrong, H. Sawyer, D. P. Costa, and A. D. Chalfoun. Site fidelity as a maladaptive behavior in the Anthropocene. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.


Site fidelity, or returning to previously visited locations, is a behavior observed across taxa and ecosystems. By developing familiarity with a particular location, site fidelity provides a range of benefits and is advantageous in stable or predictable environments. Yet, the Anthropocene is characterized by rates of environmental change that outpace the evolutionary history of extant taxa. Such change can drive site fidelity to become maladaptive. Here we outline the theoretical underpinnings for maladaptive site fidelity and synthesize empirical research supporting its occurrence. We examine maladaptive site fidelity in the context of a related concept, ecological traps, whereby organisms exhibit maladaptive behavior in habitat selection. We discuss adaptive mechanisms that may enable species with site fidelity to persist in the Anthropocene. With ongoing environmental change, researchers and practitioners should expect fidelity-induced ecological traps to become relatively common, and initiate projects to identify, understand, and conserve this widespread and ecologically important behavior.