Revisiting the stability of spatially heterogeneous predator-prey systems under eutrophication


Farkas JZ, Morozov A, Arashkevich EG & Nikishina A (2015) Revisiting the stability of spatially heterogeneous predator-prey systems under eutrophication. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, 77 (10), pp. 1886-1908.

We employ partial integro-differential equations to model trophic interaction in a spatially extended heterogeneous environment. Compared to classical reaction–diffusion models, this framework allows us to more realistically describe the situation where movement of individuals occurs on a faster time scale than on the demographic (population) time scale, and we cannot determine population growth based on local density. However, most of the results reported so far for such systems have only been verified numerically and for a particular choice of model functions, which obviously casts doubts about these findings. In this paper, we analyse a class of integro-differential predator–prey models with a highly mobile predator in a heterogeneous environment, and we reveal the main factors stabilizing such systems. In particular, we explore an ecologically relevant case of interactions in a highly eutrophic environment, where the prey carrying capacity can be formally set to ‘infinity’. We investigate two main scenarios: (1) the spatial gradient of the growth rate is due to abiotic factors only, and (2) the local growth rate depends on the global density distribution across the environment (e.g. due to non-local self-shading). For an arbitrary spatial gradient of the prey growth rate, we analytically investigate the possibility of the predator–prey equilibrium in such systems and we explore the conditions of stability of this equilibrium. In particular, we demonstrate that for a Holling type I (linear) functional response, the predator can stabilize the system at low prey density even for an ‘unlimited’ carrying capacity. We conclude that the interplay between spatial heterogeneity in the prey growth and fast displacement of the predator across the habitat works as an efficient stabilizing mechanism. These results highlight the generality of the stabilization mechanisms we find in spatially structured predator–prey ecological systems in a heterogeneous environment.

Spatially structured populations; Partial integro-differential equations; Stability; Paradox of enrichment; Top-down control

Bulletin of Mathematical Biology: Volume 77, Issue 10

Publication date31/10/2015
Publication date online30/09/2015
Date accepted by journal16/09/2015