Complexity and demographic stability in population models

Theor Popul Biol. 2004 May;65(3):211-25. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2003.12.002.


This article is concerned with relating the stability of a population, as defined by the rate of decay of fluctuations induced by demographic stochasticity, with its heterogeneity in age-specific birth and death rates. We invoke the theory of large deviations to establish a fluctuation theorem: The demographic stability of a population is positively correlated with evolutionary entropy, a measure of the variability in the age of reproducing individuals in the population. This theorem is exploited to predict certain correlations between ecological constraints and evolutionary trends in demographic stability, namely, (i) bounded growth constraints--a uni-directional increase in stability, (ii) unbounded growth constraints (large population size)--a uni-directional decrease in stability, (iii) unbounded growth constraints (small population size)--random, non-directional change in stability. These principles relating ecological constraints with trends in demographic stability are shown to be far reaching generalizations of the tenets derived from classical studies of stability in an evolutionary context. These results thus provide a new conceptual framework for explaining patterns of variation in population numbers observed in natural populations.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Demography*
  • Entropy
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Pedigree*
  • Population Dynamics*
  • Social Class
  • Stochastic Processes*