Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Spatial synchrony propagates through a forest food web via consumer-resource interactions

Formally Refereed
Authors: Kyle J. ​Haynes, Andrew M. Liebhold, Todd M. Fearer, Guiming Wang, Gary W. Norman, Derek M. Johnson
Year: 2009
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Ecology. 90(1): 2974-2983.


In many study systems, populations fluctuate synchronously across large regions. Several mechanisms have been advanced to explain this, but their importance in nature is often uncertain. Theoretical studies suggest that spatial synchrony initiated in one species through Moran effects may propagate among trophically linked species, but evidence for this in nature is lacking. By applying the nonparametric spatial correlation function to time series data, we discover that densities of the gypsy moth, the moth's chief predator (the white-footed mouse), and the mouse's winter food source (red oak acorns) fluctuate synchronously over similar distances (∼ 1000 km) and with similar levels of synchrony. In addition, we investigate the importance of consumer-resource interactions in propagating synchrony among species using an empirically informed simulation model of interactions between acorns, the white-footed mouse, the gypsy moth, and a viral pathogen of the gypsy moth. Our results reveal that regional stochasticity acting directly on populations of the mouse, moth, or pathogen likely has little effect on levels of the synchrony displayed by these species. In contrast, synchrony in mast seeding can propagate across trophic levels, thus explaining observed levels of synchrony in both white-footed mouse and gypsy moth populations. This work suggests that the transfer of synchrony among trophically linked species may be a major factor causing interspecific synchrony.


Erythrobalanus, food web, gypsy moth, indirect effect, Lymantria dispar, mast seeding, Moran effect, nucleopolyhedrosis virus, NPV, Peromyscus leucopus, red oak acorn, regional stochasticity, white-footed mouse


Haynes, Kyle J.; Liebhold, Andrew M.; Fearer, Todd M.; Wang, Guiming; Norman, Gary W.; Johnson, Derek M. 2009. Spatial synchrony propagates through a forest food web via consumer-resource interactions. Ecology. 90(1): 2974-2983.