Modelling transient population dynamics and their role in ecology and evolution
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Five chapters already published; one chapter containing information yet to be included in publication
Population projection matrix (PPM) models are a central tool in ecology and evolution. They are widely used for devising population management practises for conservation, pest control, and harvesting. They are frequently employed in comparative analyses that seek to explain demographic patterns in natural populations. They are also a key tool in calculating measures of fitness for evolutionary studies. Yet, demographic analyses using projection matrices have, in some ways, failed to keep up with prevailing ecological paradigms. A common focus on long-term and equilibrium dynamics when analysing projection matrix models fits better with the outmoded view of ecosystems as stable and immutable. The more current view of ecosystems as dynamic and subject to constant extrinsic disturbances has bred new theoretical advances in the study of short-term "transient" dynamics. Transient dynamics can be very different to long-term trends, and given that ecological studies are often conducted over short timescales, they may be more relevant to research. This thesis focuses on the study of transient dynamics using population projection matrix models. The first section presents theoretical, methodological and computational advances in the study of transient dynamics. These are designed to enhance the predictive power of models, whilst keeping data requirements to a minimum, and borrow from the fields of engineering and systems control. Case studies in this section provide support for consideration of transient dynamics in population management. The second section applies some of these new methods to answer pertinent questions surrounding the ecology and evolution of transient dynamics in plants. Results show that transient dynamics exhibit patterns according to life form and phylogenetic history. Evidence suggests that this can be linked to the stage-structuring of life cycles, which opens up the possibility for new avenues of research considering the evolution of transient dynamics in nature.
Hodgson, David J.
PhD in Biological Sciences