Landscape geometry and travelling waves in the larch budmoth

D.M. Johnson, O.N. Bjørnstad & A.M. Liebhold: Landscape geometry and travelling waves in the larch budmoth.

Ecology letters (2004) 7: 967-974


Travelling waves in cyclic populations refer to temporal shifts in peak densities moving across space in a wave-like fashion. The epicentre hypothesis states that peak densities begin in specific geographic foci and then spread into adjoining areas. Travelling waves have been confirmed in a number of population systems, begging questions about their causes. Herein we apply a newly developed statistical technique, wavelet phase analysis, to historical data to document that the travelling waves in larch budmoth (LBM) outbreaks arise from two epicentres, both located in areas with high concentrations of favourable habitat. We propose that the spatial arrangement of the landscape mosaic is responsible for initiating the travelling waves. We use a tri-trophic model of LBM dynamics to demonstrate that landscape heterogeneity (specifically gradients in density of favourable habitat) alone, is capable of inducing waves from epicentres. Our study provides unique evidence of how landscape features can mould travelling waves.