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Density feedbacks mediate effects of environmental change on population dynamics of a semidesert rodent


Nater, Chloé R; van Benthem, Koen J; Canale, Cindy I; Schradin, Carsten; Ozgul, Arpat (2018). Density feedbacks mediate effects of environmental change on population dynamics of a semidesert rodent. Journal of Animal Ecology, 87(6):1534-1546.

Abstract

Population dynamics are the result of an interplay between extrinsic and intrinsic environmental drivers. Predicting the effects of environmental change on wildlife populations therefore requires a thorough understanding of the mechanisms through which different environmental drivers interact to generate changes in population size and structure.
In this study, we disentangled the roles of temperature, food availability and population density in shaping short‐ and long‐term population dynamics of the African striped mouse, a small rodent inhabiting a semidesert with high intra‐ and interannual variation in environmental conditions.
We parameterized a female‐only stage‐structured matrix population model with vital rates depending on temperature, food availability and population density, using monthly mark–recapture data from 1609 mice trapped over 9 years (2005–2014). We then applied perturbation analyses to determine relative strengths and demographic pathways of these drivers in affecting population dynamics. Furthermore, we used stochastic population projections to gain insights into how three different climate change scenarios might affect size, structure and persistence of this population.
We identified food availability, acting through reproduction, as the main driver of changes in both short‐ and long‐term population dynamics. This mechanism was mediated by strong density feedbacks, which stabilized the population after high peaks and allowed it to recover from detrimental crashes. Density dependence thus buffered the population against environmental change, and even adverse climate change scenarios were predicted to have little effect on population persistence (extinction risk over 100 years <5%) despite leading to overall lower abundances.
Explicitly linking environment–demography relationships to population dynamics allowed us to accurately capture past population dynamics. It further enabled establishing the roles and relative importances of extrinsic and intrinsic environmental drivers, and we conclude that doing this is essential when investigating impacts of climate change on wildlife populations.

Abstract

Population dynamics are the result of an interplay between extrinsic and intrinsic environmental drivers. Predicting the effects of environmental change on wildlife populations therefore requires a thorough understanding of the mechanisms through which different environmental drivers interact to generate changes in population size and structure.
In this study, we disentangled the roles of temperature, food availability and population density in shaping short‐ and long‐term population dynamics of the African striped mouse, a small rodent inhabiting a semidesert with high intra‐ and interannual variation in environmental conditions.
We parameterized a female‐only stage‐structured matrix population model with vital rates depending on temperature, food availability and population density, using monthly mark–recapture data from 1609 mice trapped over 9 years (2005–2014). We then applied perturbation analyses to determine relative strengths and demographic pathways of these drivers in affecting population dynamics. Furthermore, we used stochastic population projections to gain insights into how three different climate change scenarios might affect size, structure and persistence of this population.
We identified food availability, acting through reproduction, as the main driver of changes in both short‐ and long‐term population dynamics. This mechanism was mediated by strong density feedbacks, which stabilized the population after high peaks and allowed it to recover from detrimental crashes. Density dependence thus buffered the population against environmental change, and even adverse climate change scenarios were predicted to have little effect on population persistence (extinction risk over 100 years <5%) despite leading to overall lower abundances.
Explicitly linking environment–demography relationships to population dynamics allowed us to accurately capture past population dynamics. It further enabled establishing the roles and relative importances of extrinsic and intrinsic environmental drivers, and we conclude that doing this is essential when investigating impacts of climate change on wildlife populations.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Animal Science and Zoology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 November 2018
Deposited On:08 Mar 2019 10:17
Last Modified:25 Sep 2019 00:26
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0021-8790
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12888
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID31003A_135770
  • : Project TitleEvolutionary adaptive physiological processes of social flexibility
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID31003A_146445
  • : Project TitleDemographic and Phenotypic Signals of Population Responses to Environmental Change
  • : FunderFP7
  • : Grant ID337785
  • : Project TitleSPREC - Demographic and Phenotypic Signals of Population Responses to Environmental Change

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