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Theor Popul Biol. 2005 Dec;68(4):217-35. Epub 2005 Sep 22.

The impact of environmental fluctuations on structured discrete time population models: resonance, synchrony and threshold behaviour.

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Department of Computing Science and Mathematics, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK.


External forcing of a discrete time ecological system does not just add variation to existing dynamics but can change the dynamics. We study the mechanisms that can bring this about, focusing on the key concepts of excitation and suppression which emerge when analysing the power spectra of the system in linear approximation. Excitation, through resonance between the system dynamics and the external forcing, is the greater the closer the system is to the boundary of the stability region. This amplification means that the extinction of populations becomes possible sooner than expected and, conversely, invasion can be significantly delayed. Suppression and the consequent redistribution of power within the spectrum proves to be a function both of the connectivity of the network graph of the system and the way that external forcing is applied to the system. It is also established that colour in stochastic forcing can have a major impact, by enhancing resonance and by greater redistribution of power. This can mean a higher risk of extinction through larger fluctuations in population numbers and a higher degree of synchrony between populations. The implications of external forcing for stage-structured species, for populations in competition and for trophic web systems are studied using the tools and concepts developed in the paper.

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