Realistic parameter assessment for a well known elephant-tree ecosystem model reveals that limit cycles are unlikely

Kevin J. Duffy, Bruce R. Page, John H. Swart, Vladimir Bajic*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In 1976 Caughley proposed a simple predator-prey model for elephant-tree dynamics. To our knowledge no-one has attempted to assess this model against real data. The significance of Caughley's model was to show that limit cycle behavior is possible for the elephant-tree system. Using realistic parameter estimates the paper emphasizes that, in fact, limit cycles are highly unlikely. For a wide range of realistic parameter estimates the model predicts a fixed point equilibrium between elephant and trees. Equilibrium model results are compared to real data for systems where there is a strong dependence between elephant and a dominant tree species. These results compare well giving added confidence in the biological premises of the model. Reasonable variations in parameter values change the equilibrium points in explainable ways. The conclusion is that this model, while crude, is realistic for certain ecological situations and can provide useful insights into such ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-125
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Modelling
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Sep 15 1999


  • Elephant foraging
  • Limit cycle dynamics
  • Parameter assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling

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