Effects of dispersal on total biomass in a patchy, heterogeneous system: Analysis and experiment

Bo Zhang, Xin Liu, D. L. DeAngelis, Wei Ming Ni, G. Geoff Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


An intriguing recent result from mathematics is that a population diffusing at an intermediate rate in an environment in which resources vary spatially will reach a higher total equilibrium biomass than the population in an environment in which the same total resources are distributed homogeneously. We extended the current mathematical theory to apply to logistic growth and also showed that the result applies to patchy systems with dispersal among patches, both for continuous and discrete time. This allowed us to make specific predictions, through simulations, concerning the biomass dynamics, which were verified by a laboratory experiment. The experiment was a study of biomass growth of duckweed (. Lemna minor Linn.), where the resources (nutrients added to water) were distributed homogeneously among a discrete series of water-filled containers in one treatment, and distributed heterogeneously in another treatment. The experimental results showed that total biomass peaked at an intermediate, relatively low, diffusion rate, higher than the total carrying capacity of the system and agreeing with the simulation model. The implications of the experiment to dynamics of source, sink, and pseudo-sink dynamics are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-62
Number of pages9
JournalMathematical Biosciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was partially funded by J. Gerry Curtis Plant Sciences Scholarships, Department of Biology, University of Miami and NSF. We are thankful to Youpeng Zhao, Yujie Liu and Xinli Yan for their help of the experiment.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


  • Laboratory experiment
  • Mathematical theory
  • Simulation modeling
  • Spatial heterogeneity
  • Vegetation growth


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