Self-organisation, scale and stability in a spatial predator-prey interaction

William Gurney, A.R. Veitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Simple predator-prey models often predict extreme instability in interactions where the prey are depressed well below their carrying capacity. Although the behaviour of some laboratory systems conforms to this pattern, field and mesocosm studies generally show prolonged co-existence of prey and predator. Prominent among the possible causes of this discrepancy are the effects of spatial heterogeneity. In this paper we show that both discrete and continuous representations of the spatial Rosenzweig-McArthur model with immobile prey can be stabilized by self-organized prey heterogeneity. This concordance of behaviour closely parallels that which we have previously established in the context of invasion waves. We use the continuous model variant to calculate the characteristic spatial scales of the self-organized structures. The discrete variant forms the basis of a simulation study demonstrating the variety of stable structures and elucidating their relation to the history of the system. We note that all stable prey distributions take the form of a network of occupied patches separated by prey-free regions, and liken the process which generates such assemblages to the formation of a landscape mozaic.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberbulm.1999.0130
Pages (from-to)61-86
Number of pages25
JournalBulletin of Mathematical Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Simple predator-prey models
  • self-organisation
  • spatial predator-prey interaction
  • spatial Rosenzweig-McArthur model


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