Geographical variation in the spatial synchrony of a forest-defoliating insect: Isolation of environmental and spatial drivers

Kyle J. Haynes, Ottar N. Bjørnstad, Andrew J. Allstadt, Andrew M. Liebhold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Despite the pervasiveness of spatial synchrony of population fluctuations in virtually every taxon, it remains difficult to disentangle its underlying mechanisms, such as environmental perturbations and dispersal. We used multiple regression of distance matrices (MRMs) to statistically partition the importance of several factors potentially synchronizing the dynamics of the gypsy moth, an invasive species in North America, exhibiting outbreaks that are partially synchronized over long distances (approx. 900 km). The factors considered in the MRM were synchrony in weather conditions, spatial proximity and forest-type similarity. We found that the most likely driver of outbreak synchrony is synchronous precipitation. Proximity played no apparent role in influencing outbreak synchrony after accounting for precipitation, suggesting dispersal does not drive outbreak synchrony. Because a previous modelling study indicated weather might indirectly synchronize outbreaks through synchronization of oak masting and generalist predators that feed upon acorns, we also examined the influence of weather and proximity on synchrony of acorn production. As we found for outbreak synchrony, synchrony in oak masting increased with synchrony in precipitation, though it also increased with proximity. We conclude that precipitation could synchronize gypsy moth populations directly, as in a Moran effect, or indirectly, through effects on oak masting, generalist predators or diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20131055
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1753
StatePublished - Feb 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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