SYMP 14 - Transient Dynamics and its Implications for Ecological Theory
Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ecological theory has traditionally centered on long-term dynamics. Most classical theory on population regulation, coexistence of competitors, or persistence of consumer-resource systems taught in introductory ecology courses concentrates on finding stable asymptotic solutions: stable equilibria, limit cycles, or more complex dynamics (e.g., chaos). Yet most experiments and monitoring programs observe only short-term dynamics, contributing to a gap between theoretical and empirical work. Furthermore, if the pattern of environmental variation changes frequently enough, long-term dynamics may never be observed. For these reasons, theoretical ecologists are increasingly concerned with transient dynamics. In his 2007 Robert H. MacArthur Award Lecture, Alan Hastings highlighted the importance of developing theory that focuses on intermediate time scales. In this symposium, we will follow up on his thesis, and discuss a number of situations in which explicit consideration of transient dynamics can “change views of what regulates populations and produces coexistence on ecologically relevant time scales." Contributions will include presentation of new mathematical tools to examine transient dynamics and discussion of examples of the importance of transient dynamics in predator-prey, pathogen-host, competitive, and spatially extended systems. Realizing the importance of transient dynamics has clear implications for ecological education, because much of the theory taught in ecology courses concentrates only on equilibrium conditions. Speakers will therefore relate their work to the overall theme of the 2008 meeting, “Enhancing Ecological Thought by linking Research and Education”, by addressing whether their results should alter how ecological theory is presented in the classroom. The symposium will start with an overview by Alan Hastings on the importance of studying transient dynamics. This will be followed by a set of talks providing specific examples illustrating the importance of transients in consumer-resource interactions in streams and rivers, planktonic food webs, and epidemiology. The final set of talks will discuss new mathematical approaches for studying transient dynamics, which will help to inform future studies of transient dynamics.

Organizer:Robin E. Snyder, Case Western Reserve University
Co-organizer:Cheryl J. Briggs, University of California, Santa Barbara
Moderator:Cheryl J. Briggs, University of California, Santa Barbara
Endorsement:ESA Theoretical Ecology Section

SYMP 14-1Overview of the importance of studying transient dynamics in ecology and conservation
Alan Hastings, University of California, Davis, Derin Wysham, University of California, Davis, Eli Goldwyn, University of California, Davis
SYMP 14-2Spatial-scale dependence of transient dynamics in streams and rivers
Kurt E. Anderson, University of California, Riverside, Roger Nisbet, University of California, Edward McCauley, University of Calgary, Frank M. Hilker, University of Alberta
SYMP 14-3Modeling plankton seasonal succession
Christopher A. Klausmeier, Michigan State University, Elena Litchman, Michigan State University
SYMP 14-4Noise, nonlinearity, and seasonality: The epidemics of whooping cough revisited
Pejman Rohani, Odum School of Ecology
SYMP 14-5Using transients to understand the processes driving viral dynamics
Katia Koelle, Duke University
SYMP 14-6Sensitivity analysis of transient behavior
Hal Caswell, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
SYMP 14-7Reactivity and the transient responses of ecological systems to perturbations
Michael G. Neubert, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Hal Caswell, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Andrew Solow, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
SYMP 14-8What ecological mechanisms drive reactivity? A new mathematical approach for analyzing the transient response of perturbed ecosystems
Ariane Verdy, UCLA, Hal Caswell, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
SYMP 14-9Duration of transient dynamics in response to altered patterns of environmental variation: Resilience depends on local and global convergence processes
Robin E. Snyder, Case Western Reserve University