Analysis of the onset of a regime shift and detecting early warning signs of major population changes in a two-trophic three-species predator-prey model with long-term transients

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Journal of Mathematical Biology


Identifying early warning signs of sudden population changes and mechanisms leading to regime shifts are highly desirable in population biology. In this paper, a two-trophic ecosystem comprising of two species of predators, competing for their common prey, with explicit interference competition is considered. With proper rescaling, the model is portrayed as a singularly perturbed system with fast prey dynamics and slow dynamics of the predators. In a parameter regime near singular Hopf bifurcation, chaotic mixed-mode oscillations (MMOs), featuring concatenation of small and large amplitude oscillations are observed as long-lasting transients before the system approaches its asymptotic state. To analyze the dynamical cause that initiates a large amplitude oscillation in an MMO orbit, the model is reduced to a suitable normal form near the singular-Hopf point. The normal form possesses a separatrix surface that separates two different types of oscillations. A large amplitude oscillation is initiated if a trajectory moves from the “inner” to the “outer side” of this surface. A set of conditions on the normal form variables are obtained to determine whether a trajectory would exhibit another cycle of MMO dynamics before experiencing a regime shift (i.e. approaching its asymptotic state). These conditions serve as early warning signs for a sudden population shift as well as detect the onset of a regime shift in this ecological model.



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