Resonance of plankton communities with temperature fluctuations

E. Beninca, V. Dakos, E.H. van Nes, J. Huisman, M. Scheffer

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30 Citations (Scopus)


The interplay between intrinsic population dynamics and environmental variation is still poorly understood. It is known, however, that even mild environmental noise may induce large fluctuations in population abundances. This is due to a resonance effect that occurs in communities on the edge of stability. Here, we use a simple predator-prey model to explore the sensitivity of plankton communities to stochastic environmental fluctuations. Our results show that the magnitude of resonance depends on the timescale of intrinsic population dynamics relative to the characteristic timescale of the environmental fluctuations. Predator-prey communities with an intrinsic tendency to oscillate at a period T are particularly responsive to red noise characterized by a timescale of [Formula: see text]. We compare these theoretical predictions with the timescales of temperature fluctuations measured in lakes and oceans. This reveals that plankton communities will be highly sensitive to natural temperature fluctuations. More specifically, we demonstrate that the relatively fast temperature fluctuations in shallow lakes fall largely within the range to which rotifers and cladocerans are most sensitive, while marine copepods and krill will tend to resonate more strongly with the slower temperature variability of the open ocean
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E85-E95
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • colored environmental noise
  • predator-prey system
  • food-web
  • population-dynamics
  • sustained oscillations
  • extinction risk
  • chaos
  • time
  • phytoplankton
  • variability


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