Ecological Transfers in Non-Human Communities Parallel Economic Markets in a General Equilibrium Ecosystem Model
Synopsis: The oft-cited analogies between ecological and economic systems are exploited to develop a many-species model of population dynamics. In economies, markets are the fundamental institutions in which the interaction of demands and supplies determine the quantities and prices of goods. However, economic markets are not appropriate for ecological communities, because markets rely on voluntary exchange, whereas plants and animals engage in involuntary transfers of biomass. A properly defined counterpart to markets based on biomass transfers permits a general equilibrium model of predator/prey and competitive interactions in a many-species community. Functional response from optimal foraging and predation risk provide the demand and supply, respectively, in the biomass transfers. Energy per unit time is scarce and predators and prey make optimum choices with respect to functional response and risk avoidance based on required energy expenditures. The energy expenditures are similar to economic prices: they determine foraging strategies and are beyond the control of the predators and prey, yet they are determined by the aggregate choices of all predators and prey and by population densities. The energies acquired from foraging are used in a new way to construct difference equations that determine the population dynamics. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003
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