Theoretical Ecology

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 555–565 | Cite as

Modeling species dispersal with occupancy urn models

  • Carlos M. Hernandez-SuarezEmail author
  • David Hiebeler
Original Paper


Models for species dispersal make various simplifications to facilitate analysis, such as ignoring spatial correlations or assuming equal probability of colonization among all sites within a dispersal neighborhood. Here we introduce a variation of the basic contact process (BCP) which allows us to separate the number of offspring produced from the neighborhood size, which are confounded in the original BCP. We then use classical results arising from probability models involving placing balls in urns to study our modified BCP, obtaining bounds for the critical value of the survival probability needed for the population to persist. We also use the probability urn calculations with a local-dispersal mean-field approximation to estimate equilibrium population density. These methods are able to include features such as unequal dispersal probabilities to different sites in the neighborhood, e.g., as would arise when dispersers have a fixed rate of mortality per distance traveled from the parent site. We also show how urn models allow one to generalize these results to two species competing for space.


Occupancy urn models Basic contact process Stochastic spatial models 



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant no. DMS-0718786 to D. H. Thanks to the several anonymous reviewers for their input and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de ColimaColimaMéxico
  2. 2.Centro de Investigación en Matemáticas (CIMAT)MonterreyMéxico
  3. 3.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsUniversity of MaineOronoUSA

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