Population age and initial density in a patchy environment affect the occurrence of abrupt transitions in a birth-and-death model of Taylor's law

Ecological Modelling
By: , and 

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Abstract

Taylor's power law describes an empirical relationship between the mean and variance of population densities in field data, in which the variance varies as a power, b, of the mean. Most studies report values of b varying between 1 and 2. However, Cohen (2014a) showed recently that smooth changes in environmental conditions in a model can lead to an abrupt, infinite change in b. To understand what factors can influence the occurrence of an abrupt change in b, we used both mathematical analysis and Monte Carlo samples from a model in which populations of the same species settled on patches, and each population followed independently a stochastic linear birth-and-death process. We investigated how the power relationship responds to a smooth change of population growth rate, under different sampling strategies, initial population density, and population age. We showed analytically that, if the initial populations differ only in density, and samples are taken from all patches after the same time period following a major invasion event, Taylor's law holds with exponent b=1, regardless of the population growth rate. If samples are taken at different times from patches that have the same initial population densities, we calculate an abrupt shift of b, as predicted by Cohen (2014a). The loss of linearity between log variance and log mean is a leading indicator of the abrupt shift. If both initial population densities and population ages vary among patches, estimates of b lie between 1 and 2, as in most empirical studies. But the value of b declines to ~1 as the system approaches a critical point. Our results can inform empirical studies that might be designed to demonstrate an abrupt shift in Taylor's law.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Population age and initial density in a patchy environment affect the occurrence of abrupt transitions in a birth-and-death model of Taylor's law
Series title Ecological Modelling
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2014.06.022
Volume 289
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Elsevier Science B.V.
Publisher location Amsterdam
Contributing office(s) Southeast Ecological Science Center
Description 7 p.
First page 59
Last page 65
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N