Oscillating microbial dynamics driven by small populations, limited nutrient supply and high death rates

Bhavin S Khatri, Andrew Free, Rosalind J Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Predicting and controlling the behaviour of microbial ecosystems demands a fundamental understanding of the factors controlling their dynamics. In the natural environment microbes typically live in small local populations with limited and unpredictable nutrient supply and high death rates. Here, we show that these conditions can produce oscillations in microbial population dynamics, even for a single population. For a large population, with deterministic growth dynamics, our model predicts transient (damped) oscillations. For a small population, demographic noise causes these oscillations to be sustained indefinitely. We show that the same mechanism can produce sustained stochastic oscillations in a two-species, nutrient-cycling microbial ecosystem. Our results suggest that oscillatory population dynamics may be a common feature of small microbial populations in the natural environment, even in the absence of complex interspecies interactions or spatial structuring.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-129
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Volume314
Early online date21 Aug 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • Chemostat
  • Demographic noise
  • Fluctuations
  • Microbial ecology
  • Power spectrum

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