Information, behaviour and population dynamics

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Animals must make decisions such as where and when to forage based on imperfect information about their variable world. A growing number of authors have addressed the information problem and its relation to behaviour, learning, cognition and evolution. Few studies, however, have analyzed how the quality of information available for decision making affects population growth and dynamics. Here I utilize stochastic dynamic models, statistical decision theory, and projection matrices to show how information affects patch choice and how these choices in turn affect fitness and population growth. The value of information, in terms of its impact on fitness, depends on an organism's state and changes during the organism's life span. The relationship between a population's rate of increase and uncertainty about optimal patch choice amongst its members is concave with the positive effects of reduced uncertainty diminishing rapidly as individuals become more knowledgeable about their environment. The implications of these results for understanding populations and communities of interacting species are discussed.

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