Temporal scale of environmental correlations affects ecological synchrony

Robert A. Desharnais, Daniel C. Reuman, Robert F. Costantino, Joel E. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Population densities of a species measured in different locations are often correlated over time, a phenomenon referred to as synchrony. Synchrony results from dispersal of individuals among locations and spatially correlated environmental variation, among other causes. Synchrony is often measured by a correlation coefficient. However, synchrony can vary with timescale. We demonstrate theoretically and experimentally that the timescale-specificity of environmental correlation affects the overall magnitude and timescale-specificity of synchrony, and that these effects are modified by population dispersal. Our laboratory experiments linked populations of flour beetles by changes in habitat size and dispersal. Linear filter theory, applied to a metapopulation model for the experimental system, predicted the observed timescale-specific effects. The timescales at which environmental covariation occurs can affect the population dynamics of species in fragmented habitats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1800-1811
Number of pages12
JournalEcology letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Ecological synchrony
  • Moran effect
  • Tribolium
  • environmental correlations
  • metapopulations
  • microcosm experiments
  • population dispersal
  • spectral analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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