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In biology, we frequently observe different species existing within the same environment. For example, there are many cell types in a tumour, or different animal species may occupy a given habitat. In modeling interactions between such species, we often make use of the mean-field approximation, whereby spatial correlations between the locations of individuals are neglected. Whilst this approximation holds in certain situations, this is not always the case, and care must be taken to ensure the mean-field approximation is only used in appropriate settings. In circumstances where the mean-field approximation is unsuitable, we need to include information on the spatial distributions of individuals, which is not a simple task. In this paper, we provide a method that overcomes many of the failures of the mean-field approximation for an on-lattice volume-excluding birth-death-movement process with multiple species. We explicitly take into account spatial information on the distribution of individuals by including partial differential equation descriptions of lattice site occupancy correlations. We demonstrate how to derive these equations for the multispecies case and show results specific to a two-species problem. We compare averaged discrete results to both the mean-field approximation and our improved method, which incorporates spatial correlations. We note that the mean-field approximation fails dramatically in some cases, predicting very different behavior from that seen upon averaging multiple realizations of the discrete system. In contrast, our improved method provides excellent agreement with the averaged discrete behavior in all cases, thus providing a more reliable modeling framework. Furthermore, our method is tractable as the resulting partial differential equations can be solved efficiently using standard numerical techniques.

Original publication




Journal article


Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys

Publication Date





Models, Theoretical, Movement, Spatial Analysis