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Math Biosci. 2018 Jul;301:167-184. doi: 10.1016/j.mbs.2018.05.006. Epub 2018 May 5.

Dynamical implications of bi-directional resource exchange within a meta-ecosystem.

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School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Biology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019, USA.
Department of Biology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019, USA. Electronic address:
College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ 85212, USA. Electronic address:


The exchange of resources across ecosystem boundaries can have large impacts on ecosystem structures and functions at local and regional scales. In this article, we develop a simple model to investigate dynamical implications of bi-directional resource exchanges between two local ecosystems in a meta-ecosystem framework. In our model, we assume that (1) Each local ecosystem acts as both a resource donor and recipient, such that one ecosystem donating resources to another results in a cost to the donating system and a benefit to the recipient; and (2) The costs and benefits of the bi-directional resource exchange between two ecosystems are correlated in a nonlinear fashion. Our model could apply to the resource interactions between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that are supported by the literature. Our theoretical results show that bi-directional resource exchange between two ecosystems can indeed generate complicated dynamical outcomes, including the coupled ecosystems having amensalistic, antagonistic, competitive, or mutualistic interactions, with multiple alternative stable states depending on the relative costs and benefits. In addition, if the relative cost for resource exchange for an ecosystem is decreased or the relative benefit for resource exchange for an ecosystem is increased, the production of that ecosystem would increase; however, depending on the local environment, the production of the other ecosystem may increase or decrease. We expect that our work, by evaluating the potential outcomes of resource exchange theoretically, can facilitate empirical evaluations and advance the understanding of spatial ecosystem ecology where resource exchanges occur in varied ecosystems through a complicated network.


Amensalistic interactions; Antagonistic interactions; Aquatic ecosystems; Bi-directional resource exchange; Competitive interactions; Meta-ecosystem; Multiple alternative stable states; Mutualistic interactions; Terrestrial ecosystems


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