Robust ecological pattern formation induced by demographic noise

Thomas Butler, Nigel Goldenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We demonstrate that demographic noise can induce persistent spatial pattern formation and temporal oscillations in the Levin-Segel predator-prey model for plankton-herbivore population dynamics. Although the model exhibits a Turing instability in mean-field theory, demographic noise greatly enlarges the region of parameter space where pattern formation occurs. To distinguish between patterns generated by fluctuations and those present at the mean-field level in real ecosystems, we calculate the power spectrum in the noise-driven case and predict the presence of fat tails not present in the mean-field case. These results may account for the prevalence of large-scale ecological patterns, beyond that expected from traditional nonstochastic approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number030902
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 15 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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