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Keywords:

  • Predator–prey dynamics;
  • transient;
  • metapopulation;
  • stability;
  • persistence

Using spatially coupled predator–prey systems as an example of a cyclic ecological system where coexistence depends on oscillations, transient dynamics of models where there are no stable persistent solutions are shown to be a reasonable explanation of persistence over ecological time scales. The parameter values leading to transients within the context of a particular model may be far from parameter values that lead to stable solutions, so transients will need to be explicitly considered in model analysis. Since natural systems with many coupled oscillating species are common, and natural communities are often reset by disturbances or seasonality, transients should play a central role in understanding natural systems.