Effects of time-lagged niche construction on metapopulation dynamics and environmental heterogeneity

15 November 2010

Time-delayed responses to environmental changes and disturbance can beget profound effects on the spatiotemporal dynamics of metapopulations. Here, we first examined the effect of three forms of time-lag (that is, equal-weight, recency and primacy effects) on population dynamics, using a spatially structured lattice model. The time-lag was incorporated in the niche construction process of the system (an organism–environment feedback). Using bifurcations diagrams and numerical simulations, we found that the time-lag can form a phase-locked oscillation. Three typical spatial patterns emerged: spiral wave, spiral-broken wave and circular wave. These spatial patterns gradually become immobile as a result of the self-organized ecological imprinting due to niche construction. Therefore, the phase-locked oscillation and the ecological imprinting process together determine the spatial structure of metapopulations and the environmental heterogeneity.