How colored environmental noise affects population extinction

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Environmental noise can cause an exponential reduction in the mean time to extinction (MTE) of an isolated population. We study this effect on an example of a stochastic birth-death process with rates modulated by a colored (that is, correlated) Gaussian noise. A path integral formulation yields a transparent way of evaluating the MTE and finding the optimal realization of the environmental noise that determines the most probable path to extinction. The population-size dependence of the MTE changes from exponential in the absence of the environmental noise to a power law for a short-correlated noise and to no dependence for long-correlated noise. We also establish the validity domains of the white-noise limit and adiabatic limit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number268103
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number26
StatePublished - Dec 22 2008


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