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Pools versus Queues: The Variable Dynamics of Stochastic "Steady States".

Abstract

Mathematical models in ecology and epidemiology often consider populations "at equilibrium", where in-flows, such as births, equal out-flows, such as death. For stochastic models, what is meant by equilibrium is less clear--should the population size be fixed or growing and shrinking with equal probability? Two different mechanisms to implement a stochastic steady state are considered. Under these mechanisms, both a predator-prey model and an epidemic model have vastly different outcomes, including the median population values for both predators and prey and the median levels of infection within a hospital (P < 0.001 for all comparisons). These results suggest that the question of how a stochastic steady state is modeled, and what it implies for the dynamics of the system, should be carefully considered.

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