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Am Nat. 2009 Apr;173(4):517-30. doi: 10.1086/597225.

Influence of local demography on asymptotic and transient dynamics of a yellow-bellied marmot metapopulation.

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Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.


Despite recent advances in biodemography and metapopulation ecology, we still have limited understanding of how local demographic parameters influence short- and long-term metapopulation dynamics. We used long-term data from 17 local populations, along with the recently developed methods of matrix metapopulation modeling and transient sensitivity analysis, to investigate the influence of local demography on long-term (asymptotic) versus short-term (transient) dynamics of a yellow-bellied marmot metapopulation in Colorado. Both long- and short-term dynamics depended primarily on a few colony sites and were highly sensitive to changes in demography at these sites, particularly in survival of reproductive adult females. Interestingly, the relative importance of sites differed between long- and short-term dynamics; the spatial structure and local population sizes, while insignificant for asymptotic dynamics, were influential on transient dynamics. However, considering the spatial structure was uninformative about the relative influence of local demography on metapopulation dynamics. The vital rates that were the most influential on local dynamics were also the most influential on both long- and short-term metapopulation dynamics. Our results show that an explicit consideration of local demography is essential for a complete understanding of the dynamics and persistence of spatially structured populations.

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