The emergence of phase asynchrony and frequency modulation in metacommunities

  • Frederic Guichard
  • Yuxiang Zhang
  • Frithjof Lutscher


Spatial synchrony can summarize complex patterns of population abundance. Studies of phase synchrony predict that limited dispersal can drive either in-phase or out-of-phase synchrony, characterized by a constant phase difference among populations. We still lack an understanding of ecological processes leading to the loss of phase synchrony. Here, we study the role of limited dispersal as a cause of phase asynchrony defined as fluctuating phase differences among populations. We adopt a minimal predator-prey model allowing for dispersal-induced phase asynchrony, and show its dependence on species traits. We show that phase asynchrony in a homogeneous metacommunity requires a minimum of three communities and is characterized by the emergence of regional frequency modulation of population fluctuations. This frequency modulation results in spectral signatures in local time series that can be used to infer the causes and properties of metacommunity dynamics. Dispersal-induced phase asynchrony extends the application of ecological theories of synchrony to nonstationary time series, and is consistent with observed spatiotemporal patterns in marine metacommunities.


Phase synchrony Metacommunities Spatial dynamics Predator-prey dynamics Self-organization Weakly coupled oscillators 



F.G. and F.L. wish to thank the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada for their support through the Discovery Program.

Funding information

This study is financially supported by the NSF of China (No. 11601386). We also wish to acknowledge financial support from the Centre de Recherches Mathématiques (CRM) and from the Canadian Healthy Ocean Network (CHONe).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018
corrected publication 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.School of MathematicsTianjin UniversityTianjinChina
  3. 3.Department of Mathematics and Statistics & Department of BiologyOttawaCanada

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