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Biological filtering of correlated environments: towards a generalised Moran theorem


  • Jörgen Ripa,

  • Esa Ranta

J. Ripa (, Dept of Theoretical Ecology, Ecology Building, Lund Univ., SE-22362 Lund, Sweden. – E. Ranta, Dept of Biological and Environmental Sciences, P.O. Box 65 (Viikinkaari 1), FI-00014 Univ. of Helsinki, Finland.


Many species from diverse taxa are known to display synchronous fluctuations across vast geographical ranges. It is often thought that climate factors influencing the growth of conspecific populations are correlated over large distances and hence produce the synchronous population dynamics – an effect known as the Moran effect. However, for species embedded in a food web the Moran effect needs not necessarily influence the focal species directly, but can act indirectly through other species. Such an indirect synchronization can also occur in an age-structured population, where the correlated environment of one age-class causes synchronous fluctuations of another. Here, we investigate this indirect Moran effect. We find first of all that synchrony is readily transferred through food webs or between age classes, which complicates the identification of the underlying synchronizing factor. Secondly, we find puzzling cases, where synchrony is enhanced as it is filtered through a food web or between age-classes. Our results also apply to systems of different species, but with closely matching dynamics.