Complex dynamics of desert locust plagues


  1. Spectral analysis of 66 years of locust swarm abundance data failed to reveal any significant cycles although the dominant cycle detected in a de-trended series, adjusted to take account of a significant partial autocorrelation for a lag of 1 year, had a periodicity of 16 years.

  2. Although some estimates of the intrinsic rate of increase (r) of desert locusts are indicative of chaos, reconstructions of locust dynamics using response surface methodology (RSM) suggested exponential stability. This was also true for data for the West African Region alone and inclusion of rainfall data from the Sahel improved the significance of an RSM model for West Africa.

  3. The observed positive relationship between locust abundance and rainfall in West Africa confirmed the importance of rain; but the variance of the locust abundance also increased with rainfall, making rainfall alone a poor predictor. However, this heteroscedastic pattern was reproducible by a simple logistic model with a chaotic r and a variable K. This was not the case when a stable value for r was used.

  4. The available data and current methodologies are insufficient to provide unequivocal conclusions on locust dynamics, which are complicated by phase changes and associated switches in r values.


Cheke, R.A.; Holt, J. Complex dynamics of desert locust plagues. Ecological Entomology (1993) 18 (2) 109-115. [DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2311.1993.tb01191.x]

Complex dynamics of desert locust plagues

Published 1 January 1993