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Am Nat. 2007 May;169(5):673-83. Epub 2007 Mar 7.

A perfect storm: the combined effects on population fluctuations of autocorrelated environmental noise, age structure, and density dependence.

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  • 1Environmental Studies Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA. cwilmers@ucsc.edu

Abstract

While it is widely appreciated that climate can affect the population dynamics of various species, a mechanistic understanding of how climate interacts with life-history traits to influence population fluctuations requires development. Here we build a general density-dependent age-structured model that accounts for differential responses in life-history traits to increasing population density. We show that as the temporal frequency of favorable environmental conditions increases, population fluctuations also increase provided that unfavorable environmental conditions still occur. As good years accumulate and the number of individuals in a population increases, successive life-history traits become vulnerable to density dependence once a return to unfavorable conditions prevails. The stronger this ratcheting of density dependence in life-history traits by autocorrelated climatic conditions, the larger the population fluctuations become. Highly fecund species, and those in which density dependence occurs in juvenile and adult vital rates at similar densities, are most sensitive to increases in the frequency of favorable conditions. Understanding the influence of global warming on temporal correlation in regional environmental conditions will be important in identifying those species liable to exhibit increased population fluctuations that could lead to their extinction.

PMID:
17427137
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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