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A branching process model for dormancy and seed banks in randomly fluctuating environments

Blath, Jochen; Hermann, Felix; Slowik, Martin

The goal of this article is to contribute towards the conceptual and quantitative understanding of the evolutionary benefits for (microbial) populations to maintain a seed bank consisting of dormant individuals when facing fluctuating environmental conditions. To this end, we discuss a class of ‘2-type’ branching processes describing populations of individuals that may switch between ‘active’ and ‘dormant’ states in a random environment oscillating between a ‘healthy’ and a ‘harsh’ state. We incorporate different switching strategies and suggest a method of ‘fair comparison’ to incorporate potentially varying reproductive costs. We then use this concept to compare the fitness of the different strategies in terms of maximal Lyapunov exponents. This gives rise to a ‘fitness map’ depicting the environmental regimes where certain switching strategies are uniquely supercritical.
Published in: Journal of Mathematical Biology, 10.1007/s00285-021-01639-6, Springer Nature