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Mathematics 2018, 6(1), 9;

The Collapse of Ecosystem Engineer Populations

Instituto de Física de São Carlos, Universidade de São Paulo, Caixa Postal 369, 13560-970 São Carlos SP, Brazil
Received: 26 November 2017 / Revised: 18 December 2017 / Accepted: 8 January 2018 / Published: 12 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Progress in Mathematical Ecology)
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Humans are the ultimate ecosystem engineers who have profoundly transformed the world’s landscapes in order to enhance their survival. Somewhat paradoxically, however, sometimes the unforeseen effect of this ecosystem engineering is the very collapse of the population it intended to protect. Here we use a spatial version of a standard population dynamics model of ecosystem engineers to study the colonization of unexplored virgin territories by a small settlement of engineers. We find that during the expansion phase the population density reaches values much higher than those the environment can support in the equilibrium situation. When the colonization front reaches the boundary of the available space, the population density plunges sharply and attains its equilibrium value. The collapse takes place without warning and happens just after the population reaches its peak number. We conclude that overpopulation and the consequent collapse of an expanding population of ecosystem engineers is a natural consequence of the nonlinear feedback between the population and environment variables. View Full-Text
Keywords: ecosystem engineering; colonization wavefront; cliodynamics; coupled map lattice ecosystem engineering; colonization wavefront; cliodynamics; coupled map lattice

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Fontanari, J.F. The Collapse of Ecosystem Engineer Populations. Mathematics 2018, 6, 9.

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