Stochastic models in population biology and their deterministic analogs

A. J. McKane, T. J. Newman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    136 Citations (Scopus)


    We introduce a class of stochastic population models based on "patch dynamics." The size of the patch may be varied, and this allows one to quantify the departures of these stochastic models from various mean-field theories, which are generally valid as the patch size becomes very large. These models may be used to formulate a broad range of biological processes in both spatial and nonspatial contexts. Here, we concentrate on two-species competition. We present both a mathematical analysis of the patch model, in which we derive the precise form of the competition mean-field equations (and their first-order corrections in the nonspatial case), and simulation results. These mean-field equations differ, in some important ways, from those which are normally written down on phenomenological grounds. Our general conclusion is that mean-field theory is more robust for spatial models than for a single isolated patch. This is due to the dilution of stochastic effects in a spatial setting resulting from repeated rescue events mediated by interpatch diffusion. However, discrete effects due to modest patch sizes lead to striking deviations from mean-field theory even in a spatial setting.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number041902
    JournalPhysical Review E: Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2004


    • Adaptation, Physiological
    • Animals
    • Biological Evolution
    • Computer Simulation
    • Cooperative Behavior
    • Ecosystem
    • Humans
    • Models, Biological
    • Models, Statistical
    • Population Dynamics
    • Predatory Behavior
    • Stochastic Processes
    • Symbiosis


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