Spatial synchrony in population dynamics

Andrew Liebhold, Walter D. Koenig, Ottar N. Bjørnstad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

702 Scopus citations


Spatial synchrony refers to coincident changes in the abundance or other time-varying characteristics of geographically disjunct populations. This phenomenon has been documented in the dynamics of species representing a variety of taxa and ecological roles. Synchrony may arise from three primary mechanisms: (a) dispersal among populations, reducing the size of relatively large populations and increasing relatively small ones; (b) congruent dependence of population dynamics on a synchronous exogenous random factor such as temperature or rainfall, a phenomenon known as the "Moran effect"; and (c) trophic interactions with populations of other species that are themselves spatially synchronous or mobile. Identification of the causes of synchrony is often difficult. In addition to intraspecific synchrony, there are many examples of synchrony among populations of different species, the causes of which are similarly complex and difficult to identify. Furthermore, some populations may exhibit complex spatial dynamics such as spiral waves and chaos. Statistical tests based on phase coherence and/or time-lagged spatial correlation are required to characterize these more complex patterns of spatial dynamics fully.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-490
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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