Consequences of symbiosis for food web dynamics

Kooi, B.W., Kuijper, L.D.J. and Kooijman, S.A.L.M. 2004. Consequences of symbiosis for food web dynamics. Journal of Mathematical Biology 3: 227 - 271


Basic Lotka-Volterra type models in which mutualism (a type of symbiosis where the two populations benefit both) is taken into account, may give unbounded solutions. We exclude such behaviour using explicit mass balances and study the consequences of symbiosis for the long-term dynamic behaviour of a three species system, two prey and one predator species in the chemostat. We compose a theoretical food web where a predator feeds on two prey species that have a symbiotic relationships. In addition to a species-specific resource, the two prey populations consume the products of the partner population as well. In turn, a common predator forages on these prey populations. The temporal change in the biomass and the nutrient densities in the reactor is described by ordinary differential equations ({\sc ode}). Since products are recycled, the dynamics of these abiotic materials must be taken into account as well, and they are described by {\sc ode}s in a similar way as the abiotic nutrients. We use numerical bifurcation analysis to assess the long-term dynamic behaviour for varying degrees of symbiosis. Attractors can be equilibria, limit cycles and chaotic attractors depending on the control parameters of the chemostat reactor. These control parameters that can be experimentally manipulated are the nutrient density of the inflow medium and the dilution rate. Bifurcation diagrams for the three species web with a facultative symbiotic association between the two prey populations, are similar to that of a bi-trophic food chain; nutrient enrichment leads to oscillatory behaviour. Predation combined with obligatory symbiotic prey-interactions has a stabilizing effect, that is, there is stable coexistence in a larger part of the parameter space than for a bi-trophic food chain. However, combined with a large growth rate of the predator, the food web can persist only in a relatively small region of the parameter space. Then, two zero-pair bifurcation points are the organizing centers. In each of these points, in addition to a tangent, transcritical and Hopf bifurcation a global heteroclinic bifurcation is emanating. This heteroclinic cycle connects two saddle equilibria where the predator is absent. Under parameter variation the period of the stable limit cycle goes to infinity and the cycle tends to the heteroclinic cycle. At this global bifurcation point this cycle breaks and the boundary of the basin of attraction disappears abruptly because the separatrix disappears together with the cycle. As a result, it becomes possible that a stable two-nutrient--two-prey population system becomes unstable by invasion of a predator and eventually the predator goes extinct together with the two prey populations, that is, the complete food web is destroyed. This is a form of over-exploitation by the predator population of the two symbiotic prey populations. When obligatory symbiotic prey-interactions are modelled with Liebig's minimum law, where growth is limited by the most limiting resource, more complicated types of bifurcations are found. This results from the fact that the Jacobian matrix changes discontinuously with respect to a varying parameter when another resource becomes most limiting.

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