Fundamental predictability in multispecies competition: the influence of large disturbance. Academic Article uri icon


  • Empirical evidence of chaos, or complex behavior, in ecosystems is scarce, presumably due to high system-level noise and/or the rarity of conditions necessary for complex behavior to arise. An alternative explanation might be that complex behavior is fragile and readily suppressed by disturbances that are common in many ecosystems. Here we investigated the role of disturbance frequency and magnitude on complex behavior and focused on population succession trajectories in a plankton system. Because of its prominence in aquatic ecology, we used hydraulic flushing and nutrient loading as disturbances. Our findings from numerical modeling exercises and laboratory microcosm experiments using natural plankton assemblages indicated that one aspect of complex behavior, divergence of nearby trajectories, was suppressed when the magnitude and periodicity of hydraulic flushing and nutrient loading were large. In other words, complex succession became determinable. Divergence of nearby trajectories was relatively robust, however, because pulses of not less than 85% of the total inflow were required to suppress this behavior. Our numerical findings also revealed that large hydraulic disturbances could introduce to the system another aspect of complex behavior, aperiodic succession.

published proceedings

  • Am Nat

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Roelke, D., Augustine, S., & Buyukates, Y.

citation count

  • 44

complete list of authors

  • Roelke, Daniel||Augustine, Sarah||Buyukates, Yesim

publication date

  • November 2003