An introduction to the facilitation package

The package facilitation was created to simulate the population dynamics of plant species that receive facilitation from other species on the early stages of development. The package evolved to allow simulations with a larger number of species, and varied types of interactions. Currently, it allows for any number of species, each with any number of life stages, where each stage has it's own death rate, growth rate (except for the last stage of each species, of course), reproduction rates, and interaction radius, and where each stage can affect each other stage. The interactions may affect death, growth or reproduction rates positively or negatively, with any value.

In addition to the simulation proper, this package includes functions for extracting and plotting relevant information from the simulation results, as well as a few basic functions to produce matrix population models that can be compared with the simplest simulations.

Please note that, as the package implements the simulation in continuous times, the parameters for controlling the processes of growth, death and reproduction are expressed as rates, and not probabilities, and as such may assume values outside the [0,1] interval.

The main function in this package is community, the function used to run the simulations. The simulation was implemented in C++ using the package Rcpp, and is accessible from R only through this one function.

Running simulations

Example 1: the simplest example

The simplest simulation you can run would be of a single population with only one stage. Still, the individuals of this populations should be able to die and to reproduce. Let's set death rate to 1, reproduction rate to 2, and growth rate, necessarily, to 0. This model corresponds to a simple malthusian (exponential) growth of rate r=1.

### parameter are D G R
rates <- matrix(c(1,0,2),nrow=1) # parameters must be in a matrix
results <- community(maxtime=2,numstages=1,parameters=rates,init=10)

The return value is a list containing all the parameters used and the data resulting from the simulation, with one line per individual at each life stage, with their (x,y) position, id, time at which they were born or grew to that stage and time at which they died or grew to the next stage.

Example 2: a structured species

The below code creates a simulation with 3 lifestages, with facilitation reducing the death rate of the second stage, and competition between saplings and between adults, runs it up to time 10, and stores the result in a variable called results. In this case, the facilitator has no dynamics.

The first thing to do is to determine the rates and interaction radii, i.e., the distances up to which the individuals can have effect on others:

numstages <- 3
deathrates <- c(2, 0.2, 0.2)     # death rates for seed, sapling and adult
growthrates <- c(1, 0.2)         # transition rates seed-->sapling and sapling-->adult
reproductionrate <- 10           # reproduction rate (only adult)
radius <- c(0,0.5,2)             # interaction radii per stage
dispersalradius <- 2             # average distance a seed falls from the parent (distance is exponentially distributed)
param <- create.parameters(D=deathrates,G=growthrates,R=reproductionrate,dispersal=dispersalradius,radius=radius) # create the parameter object
param <- rbind(param,c(0,0,0,0,2)) # parameters for facilitator (no dynamics, radius 2)

init <- c(1,1,10,20)             # initial pop. sizes for the 3 stages plus the facilitator species
effects <- c(0,0,0,0,            # effects over seeds (none)
            0,-.5,0,+1,          # effects over seedlings (competition and facilitation)
            0,0,-0.2,0,          # effects over adults (competition with adults)  
            0,0,0,0)             # effects over facilitator (none)
maxt <- 10                       # time up to which the simulation shall run
h <- 50                          # arena height
w <- 50                          # arena width

results <-

Example 3: more species

The below code creates a simulation with two species, with 3 and 2 lifestages respectively, with facilitation reducing the death rate of the juvenile stages, and intra and inter-specific competition; runs it up to time 10, and stores the result in the results variable.

### Two species competition+facilitation
maxt <- 10

nstages <- c(3,2)
init <- list(c(100,0,10),c(100,30))
### parameter matrix has one stage per row
###               D G R d r
param <- matrix(c(2,1,0,0,0, 1,1,0,0,.1, .5,0,6,2,1, 1,1,0,0,.2, .5,0,2,2,2), byrow=T, nrow=5) 
### interaction matrix: positive values represent facilitation, negative ones, competition
interactD <- matrix(c(0,0,0,0,0, 0,-.1,+.1,-.1,0, 0,0,-.1,0,-.2, ## effects over species 1
                                0,-.2,+.2,-.1,0, 0,0,-.2,0,-.1),ncol=5) ## effects over species 2
### let's also add effects over growth rates: adults limit growth
interactG <- matrix(c(0,0,0,0,0, 0,0,-.2,0,-.5, 0,0,0,0,0, ## effects over species 1
                                0,0,-.2,0,-.5, 0,0,0,0,0),ncol=5) ## effects over species 2
results <-

Example 4: stress gradient

The script below ilustrates the use of stress gradient effects. The fifth parameter in the parameter matrix corresponds to the maximum stress effect, that is, the maximum value by which the individuals death rates will be increased. The death rate will increase linearly from 0 to the max stress effect value, from left to right in the arena.

In this example we have one species with three stages, and the death rates of juveniles varies from 0 when x=0 to 4 when x=100. Mathematically, in the exact middle where death rate is 2, about one third of seedlings would become juveniles, and one half of those would become adults, and each adult would produce on average 6 new seedlings, so that the population would neither grow nor diminish (r=0)[1]. So on the left half of the plot the population is viable, and on the right half, it's not. Notice that adults are not affected neither by stress nor competition.

maxt<-40 # this is gonna take a while
rates <- matrix(c(0,1,0,2,.7,4, 1,1,0,2,1.2,0, 1,0,6,2,2,0),nrow=3,byrow=T) # maximum stress effect is 4 for stage 1 and 0 for stages 2 and 3
results5 <- community(maxtime=maxt,numstages=3,parameters=rates,init=c(40,0,0),
                      interactionsD=matrix(c(-2,0,0, 0,0,0, 0,0,0),3)) # competition is only between seedlings

See the scripts in the examples directory (available on GitHub) for a few more examples.

Showing the results

You can plot the actual individuals in space in an animation with spatialanimation, which invokes package animation.

times <- seq(0,results$maxtime,length.out=20)         # array of times of interest

There is also a shorthand if you want a snapshot of a given point in time:


You may calculate the abundances through time:

times <- seq(0,results$maxtime,length.out=100)         # array of times of interest
ab <- abundance.matrix(results,times)

Having an abundance matrix, you can plot your population in a stackplot. Obs.: the stackplot makes most sense if you plot only one species at a time, so let's plot the columns 1:3, ie, species 1.


You can also plot it in a logarithmic scale to better visualize the growth rate of the species:


Note that you can choose as much detail in your abundance matrix as you'd like, changing the times parameter. Compare:


The package also includes functions to plot the expected abundances according to a linear differential model. To produce the matrix corresponding to the ODE and calculate the solution (that is, the matrix exponential), run the following:

mat <- mat.model(results)[[1]]
so <- solution.matrix(p0=init[1:3], M=mat, times=times)

You can also plot the results (plot the whole matrix since there is only one species this time):


Note that this is the analytical solution to the ODE model that corresponds to the structured population in the absence of interactions.