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Colour of environmental noise affects the nonlinear dynamics of cycling, stage-structured populations


* Correspondence and present address: Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Buckhurst Road, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK. E-mail:


Populations fluctuate because of their internal dynamics, which can be nonlinear and stochastic, and in response to environmental variation. Theory predicts how the colour of environmental stochasticity affects population means, variances and correlations with the environment over time. The theory has not been tested for cycling populations, commonly observed in field systems. We applied noise of different colours to cycling laboratory beetle populations, holding other statistical properties of the noise fixed. Theory was largely validated, but failed to predict observations in sufficient detail. The main period of population cycling was shifted up to 33% by the colour of environmental stochasticity. Noise colour affected population means, variances and dominant periodicities differently for populations that cycled in different ways without noise. Our results show that changes in the colour of climatic variability, partly caused by humans, may affect the main periodicity of cycling populations, possibly impacting industry, pest management and conservation.