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Influence of time delay and nonlinear diffusion on herbivore outbreak


Herbivore outbreaks, a major form of natural disturbance in many ecosystems, often have devastating impacts on their food plants. Understanding those factors permitting herbivore outbreaks to occur is a long-standing issue in conventional studies of plant-herbivore interactions. These studies are largely concerned with the relative importance of intrinsic biological factors and extrinsic environmental variations in determining the degree of herbivore outbreaks. In this paper, we illustrated that how the time delay associated with plant defense responses to herbivore attacks and the spatial diffusion of herbivore jointly promote outbreaks of herbivore population. Using a reaction-diffusion model, we showed that there exists a threshold of time delay in plant-herbivore interactions; when time delay is below the threshold value, there is no herbivore outbreak. However, when time delay is above the threshold value, periodic outbreak of herbivore emerges. Furthermore, the results confirm that during the outbreak period, plants display much lower density than its normal level but higher in the inter-outbreak periods. Our results are supported by empirical findings. © 2013.

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