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Pages 827-834
First published 30 July 2014

The Resilience of a Swarm Ecosystem Under Environmental Variation

Jessica Lowell, Kyle Harrington, and Jordan Pollack

Abstract (Excerpt)

Evolving swarms can be used both to solve real-world problems and to study biological and ecological phenomena. We simulated an evolving swarm of birds under three different types of climate-change-related environmental variation—a temperate environment becoming tropical, a temperate enviroment becoming a desert, and a tropical environment becoming a desert. We found that desertification increased expirations within the swarm and decreased population stability. The direction of the variation—tropicalification or desertification —had a greater impact on the dynamics of the swarm than the degree of variation when it came to these outcomes. The environmental variation also affected the genetics of the birds, with decreased food availability leading to collision avoidance genes being downplayed, and searching behavior for food being changed. High-intensity environmental variation led to less genetic stability post-change than lower-intensity environmental variation.