Stochasticity-induced stabilization in ecology and evolution: a new synthesis

Antony M. Dean, Nadav M. Shnerb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The ability of random environmental variation to stabilize competitor coexistence was pointed out long ago and, in recent years, has received considerable attention. Analyses have focused on variations in the log abundances of species, with mean logarithmic growth rates when rare, (Formula presented.), used as metrics for persistence. However, invasion probabilities and the times to extinction are not single-valued functions of (Formula presented.) and, in some cases, decrease as (Formula presented.) increases. Here, we present a synthesis of stochasticity-induced stabilization (SIS) phenomena based on the ratio between the expected arithmetic growth (Formula presented.) and its variance (Formula presented.). When the diffusion approximation holds, explicit formulas for invasion probabilities and persistence times are single-valued, monotonic functions of (Formula presented.). The storage effect in the lottery model, together with other well-known examples drawn from population genetics, microbiology, and ecology (including discrete and continuous dynamics, with overlapping and non-overlapping generations), are placed together, reviewed, and explained within this new, transparent theoretical framework. We also clarify the relationships between life-history strategies and SIS, and study the dynamics of extinction when SIS fails.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03098
Issue number9
Early online date22 May 2020
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the Ecological Society of America


  • bet-hedging
  • coexistence
  • community dynamics
  • competition
  • diffusive trapping
  • environmental stochasticity
  • lottery model
  • stochasticity-induced stabilization
  • storage effect


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