Population Ecology


, Volume 148, Issue 1, pp 51-60

First online:

Landscape mosaic induces traveling waves of insect outbreaks

  • Derek M. JohnsonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Email author 
  • , Ottar N. BjørnstadAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University
  • , Andrew M. LiebholdAffiliated withNortheastern Research Station, USDA Forest Service

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The effect of landscape mosaic on recurrent traveling waves in spatial population dynamics was studied via simulation modeling across a theoretical landscape with varying levels of connectivity. Phase angle analysis was used to identify locations of wave epicenters on patchy landscapes. Simulations of a tri-trophic model of the larch budmoth (Zeiraphera diniana) with cyclic population dynamics on landscapes with a single focus of high-density habitat produced traveling waves generally radiating outwardly from single and multiple foci and spreading to isolated habitats. We have proposed two hypotheses for this result: (1) immigration subsidies inflate population growth rates in the high connectivity habitat and, thus, reduce the time from valleys to peaks in population cycles; (2) populations in the high connectivity habitat crash from peaks to valleys faster than in an isolated habitat due to over-compensatory density dependence. While population growth rates in the high connectivity habitat benefitted from immigration subsidies, times from population valleys to peaks were greater in high connectivity habitat due to a greater magnitude of fluctuations. Conversely, the mean time of the crash from population peaks to valleys was shorter in high connectivity habitat, supporting the second hypothesis. Results of this study suggest over-compensatory density dependence as an underlying mechanism for recurrent traveling waves originating in high connectivity habitats aggregated around a single focus.


Connectivity Epicenter hypothesis Larch budmoth Spatial model Synchrony Zeiraphera diniana