Boom and Bust May Be the Norm in Nature, Study Suggests
New York Times Article, March 15, 1994
Copyright © 1994 by the New York Times Company, Reprinted by permission.
Unperturbed environments can see wild swings.
By CAROL KAESUK YOON
From sudden plagues of locusts to mysterious declines in sought-after creatures like the Dungeness crab, the booms and
busts of nature have puzzled researchers. A new study suggests that scientists may sometimes have difficulty finding an environmental cause for these fluctuations simply because
there is not one.
In the study published last month in the journal Science, researchers at the University of California at Davis found
evidence that many animals, even when they are unperturbed by unusual weather or any other alterations in their environment,
can undergo wildly unpredictable changes in their numbers.
Using a very simple computer model inspired by the life cycle of the Dungeness crab, the researchers found that instability
and change are the rule for these animals rather than the exception, that their population numbers whirl along through time,
never settling down, even after tens of thousands of generations. The results, they say, suggest that nature is more unpredictable
and unstable--and difficult to study--than researchers had guessed.