Population Ecology

, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 223–230 | Cite as

Density-dependent dispersal complicates spatial synchrony in tri-trophic food chains

  • Zhiguang LiuEmail author
  • Fengpan Zhang
  • Cang Hui
Original article


Spatial synchrony can increase extinction risk and undermines metapopulation persistence. Both dispersal and biotic interactions can strongly affect spatial synchrony. Here, we explore the spatial synchrony of a tri-trophic food chain in two patches connected by density-dependent dispersal, namely the strategies of prey evasion (PE) and predator pursuit (PP). The dynamics of the food chain are depicted by both the Hastings–Powell model and the chemostat model, with synchrony measured by the Pearson correlation coefficient. We use the density-independent dispersal in the system as a baseline for comparison. Results show that the density-independent dispersal of a species in the system can promote its dynamic synchrony. Dispersal of intermediate species in the tri-trophic food chain is the strongest synchronizer. In contrast, the density-dependent PP and PE of intermediate species can desynchronize the system. Highly synchronized dynamics emerged when the basal species has a strong PE strategy or when the top species has a moderate PP strategy. Our results reveal the complex relationship between density-dependent dispersal and spatial synchrony in tri-trophic systems.


Metapopulation Population synchrony Predator pursuit Prey evasion Rescue effect Tri-trophic food chain 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31200312). C.H. was supported by the National Research Foundation of South Africa (Nos. 89967 and 76912). The authors would also like to Beverley Laniewski for English editing and anonymous referees for their constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer Japan 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Applied Mathematics, School of Mathematics and StatisticsHenan UniversityKaifengPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Theoretical Ecology Group, Department of Mathematical SciencesStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa
  3. 3.Mathematical and Physical BiosciencesAfrican Institute for Mathematical SciencesCape TownSouth Africa

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