A metapopulation is a group of spatially separated populations of the same species that interact with each other. Metapopulations are a way to model populations in fragmented habitats. Patches cycle independently, generally smaller patches have higher rates of extinction. Metapopulation dynamics emphasizes the interactions between spatially distinct populations (Levins, 1969).
Local extinction is common within a metapopulation. The presence of migration between patches allows the metapopulation to persist. When a population goes extinct there is an opportunity for rescue effects to occur. This occurs when emigrants from one population prevent the extinction of a smaller population. Metapopulation dynamics are important in population modeling, metapopulation models better represent more natural population dynamics than older models (Janssen, 1997).
Levins, R. (1969), "Some demographic and genetic consequences of environmental heterogeneity for biological control", Bulletin of the Entomological Society of America : 237–240
Janssen, A. et al. 1997. Metapopulation Dynamics of a Persisting Predator-Prey system.