Patterns of patchy spread in multi-species reaction-diffusion models

Andrew Morozov, Shigui Ruan, Bai Lian Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Spread of populations in space often takes place via formation, interaction and propagation of separated patches of high species density, without formation of continuous fronts. This type of spread is called a 'patchy spread'. In earlier models, this phenomenon was considered to be a result of a pronounced environmental or/and demographic stochasticity. Recently, it was found that a patchy spread can arise in a fully deterministic predator-prey system and in models of infectious diseases; in each case the process takes place in a homogeneous environment. It is well recognized that the observed patterns of patchy spread in nature are a result of interplay between stochastic and deterministic factors. However, the models considering deterministic mechanism of patchy spread are developed and studied much less compared to those based on stochastic mechanisms. A further progress in the understanding of the role of deterministic factors in the patchy spread would be extremely helpful. Here we apply multi-species reaction-diffusion models of two spatial dimensions in a homogeneous environment. We demonstrate that patterns of patchy spread are rather common for the considered approach, in particular, they arise both in mutualism and competition models influenced by predation. We show that this phenomenon can occur in a system without a strong Allee effect, contrary to what was assumed to be crucial in earlier models. We show, as well, a pattern of patchy spread having significantly different speeds in different spatial directions. We analyze basic features of spatiotemporal dynamics of patchy spread common for the reaction-diffusion approach. We discuss in which ecosystems we would observe patterns of deterministic patchy spread due to the considered mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-328
Number of pages16
JournalEcological Complexity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Allee effect
  • Biological invasion
  • Competition model
  • Obligate mutualism model
  • Patchy spread
  • Reaction-diffusion model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecological Modeling


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