Turing patterns in patchy landscapes

New work on the effect of habitat heterogeneity on pattern formation appeared in Math Biosci Eng

Diffusion-driven instability and Turing pattern formation are a well-known mechanism by which the local interaction of species, combined with random spatial movement, can generate stable patterns of population densities in the absence of spatial heterogeneity of the underlying medium.
Some examples of such patterns exist in ecological interactions between predator and prey, but the conditions required for these patterns are not easily satisfied in ecological systems. At the same time, most ecological systems exist in heterogeneous landscapes, and landscape heterogeneity can affect species interactions and individual movement behavior. In this work, we explore whether and how landscape heterogeneity might facilitate Turing pattern formation in predator–prey interactions. We formulate reaction-diffusion equations for two interacting species on an infinite patchy landscape, consisting of two types of periodically alternating patches. Population dynamics and movement behavior differ between patch types, and individuals may have a preference for one of the two habitat types. We apply homogenization theory to derive an appropriately averaged model, to which we apply stability analysis for Turing patterns. We then study three scenarios in detail and find mechanisms by which diffusion-driven instabilities may arise even if the local interaction and movement rates do not indicate it.