Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Black noise and population persistence

Biological populations are susceptible to random variation in environmental influences such as temperature and moisture. This variability (or noise) can determine population size and, ultimately, cause extinctions. Extinction risk depends on noise colour or the amount of short- and long-term variation. Most environmental noise is reddened: the variation is dominated by long-term £uctuations. Recent modelling has shown that moderately reddened noise affects populations differently from the white noise used in earlier studies. However, some geophysical phenomena, such as temperature and river height, can have deeply reddened `brown' or even `black' spectra. We find that, compared to environments characterized by red noise, very long population persistence times are more likely for black noise. Unlike previous work incorporating a simple autoregressive model of reddened noise, our model suggests that the large variation associated with persistence in a red-noise environment limits our ability to predict the fate of particular populations subject to this noise colour. Thus, we identify the colour of noise experienced by a population - red or black - as a crucial factor in any attempt to manage or conserve that population.

Full article here.

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