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Viability in a pink environment: why “white noise” models can be dangerous


Juan Manuel Morales E-mail:


Analysis of long time series suggests that environmental fluctuations may be accurately represented by 1/f  noise (pink noise), where temporal correlation is found at several scales, and the range of fluctuations increases over time. Previous studies on the effects of coloured noise on population dynamics used first or second order autoregressive noise. I examined the importance of coloured noise for extinction risk using true 1/f  noise. I also considered the problem of estimating extinction risk with a limited sample of environmental variation. Pink noise environments increased extinction risk in random walk models where environmental variation affected the growth rate. However, pink noise environments decreased extinction risk in the Ricker model where environmental variation modified the carrying capacity. Underestimation of environmental variance almost always yielded underestimation of extinction risk. For either population viability analysis or management, we should carefully consider the long-term behaviour of the environment as well as how we include environmental noise in population models.