Population persistence in the face of demographic and environmental uncertainty

Sebastian Schreiber (October 26, 2011)

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Abstract

Populations, whether they be viral particles, bio-chemicals, plants or animals, are subject to intrinsic and extrinsic sources of stochasticity. This stochasticity in conjunction with nonlinear interactions between individuals determines to what extinct populations are able to persist in the long-term. Understanding the precise nature of these interactive effects is a central issue in population biology from theoretical, empirical, and applied perspectives.

For the first part of this talk, I will discuss, briefly, the relationship between attractors of deterministic models and quasi-stationary distributions of their stochastic, finite population counterpoints i.e. models accounting for demographic stochasticity. These results shed some insight into when persistence should be observed over long time frames despite extinction being inevitable.

For the second part of the talk, I will discuss results on stochastic persistence and boundedness for stochastic models accounting for environmental (but not demographic) noise. Stochastic boundedness asserts that asymptotically the population process tends to remain in compact sets. In contrast, stochastic persistence requires that the population process tends to be "repelled" by some "extinction set." Using these results, I will illustrate how environmental noise can facilitate coexistence of competing species and how dispersal in stochastic environments can rescue locally extinction prone populations. Empirical demonstrations from Kansas prairies, acorn woodpecker populations, and microcosm experiments will be discussed.