Investment Portfolio Theory Helps Scientists Predict Animal Population Growth

Article ID: 685122

Released: 13-Nov-2017 5:05 PM EST

Source Newsroom: Stony Brook University

  • Professor Gurevitch in the rare dwarf pine populations on Long Island’s east end.

Newswise — Stony Brook, NY, November 13, 2017 ­­ – Population demography of plants, animals and microbes that cause diseases is central to understanding many problems in ecology, evolution and conservation biology. Scientists have had limited information on collections of living populations to understand and predict what happens when you have many populations spread across vast geographic areas. Most research has focused only on local populations at small scales. A study published in PNAS details a new “landscape portfolio” theory that is based on Markowitz’s “portfolio theory” in economics, melded with ecological landscape theory to predict population growth of living things.

Co-author Jessica Gurevitch, PhD, a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution in the Stony Brook University College of Arts and Sciences, and colleagues discovered by using this landscape portfolio theory – verified with data on gypsy moth populations – something surprising occurs: When groups of populations are assessed over a large area, the total numbers of all of them together can grow even when none of the individual populations are growing. This is called “growth inflation” – a concept similar to diversified financial investing and total investment growth.

When growth inflation happens with living populations, the risk of population volatility or plummeting population numbers becomes very small. Synchronicity among the populations was key to their discovery.

“This theory incorporates new developments based on the relationships among populations, which can potentially help scientists better predict geographically widespread growth of populations,” said Professor Gurevitch. “The theory can also offer new insights to growth in fields as diverse as medicine and economics.”

Co-authors of the paper include: Cang Hui from the Stellenbosch University, South Africa; and Gordon Fox, from the University of South Florida.

###

About Stony Brook University   

Stony Brook University is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become a flagship as one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with more than 26,000 students and 2,600 faculty members, and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 50 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University is a driving force in the region’s economy, generating nearly 60,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $4.6 billion. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.


Comment/Share





Chat now!