, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 205-209


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Foliage-feeding forest insects have served as model systems in the study of animal populations for more than 50 years. Early studies emphasized identification of "key" mortality agents or density-dependent sources of mortality. However, these efforts became burdened by rhetorical ambiguity, and population ecologists are increasingly focusing on characterizing population behavior and identifying the processes that generate that behavior. Two types of behavior seem to be common in forest insect populations: periodic oscillations ("population cycles") and spatial synchrony (synchronous fluctuations over large geographic areas). Several population processes (e.g., host–pathogen interactions) have been demonstrated to be capable of producing periodic oscillations, but the precise identity of these processes remains uncertain for most forest insects and presents a challenge to future research. As part of these efforts, a greater emphasis is needed on the use of statistical methods for detecting periodic behavior and for identifying other types of population behavior (e.g., equilibrium dynamics, limit cycles, transient dynamics). Spatial synchrony appears to be even more ubiquitous in forest insect populations. Dispersal and regional stochasticity ("Moran effect") have been shown to be capable of producing synchrony, but again more research is needed to determine the relative contribution of these processes to synchrony observed in natural populations. In addition, there is a need to search for other types of time–space patterns (e.g., traveling waves, spiral waves) in forest insect populations and to determine their causes.

Received: April 25, 2000 / Accepted: September 22, 2000