Linking environmental variation to population dynamics of a forest herb

Johan Dahlgren*, Johan Ehrlén


Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Although necessary for understanding and predicting population dynamics, abiotic and biotic interactions have only rarely been coupled to demography and population dynamics.

We estimated effects of 11 environmental factors on survival, growth and fertility of the perennial herb Actaea spicata and incorporated significant factors into integral projection models to assess their effect on population dynamics.

Statistical models suggested that high soil potassium concentration increased individual growth and that seed predation and, to a lesser extent, canopy cover reduced seed production.

Demographic models showed that both soil potassium concentration and pre‐dispersal seed predation could reverse population growth from positive to negative. The observed range of soil potassium concentration corresponded to growth rates (λ) between 0.96 and 1.07, at mean observed seed predation intensity. At observed mean potassium concentration, growth rate ranged from 0.99 to 1.02 over observed seed predation intensities.

Sensitivity of population growth rate to different vital rates strongly influenced the relative effects of the two factors. Elasticity analysis suggested that proportional changes in soil potassium concentration result in seven times larger effects on population growth rate than changes in seed predation.

Synthesis. We conclude that relatively weak associations between environmental factors and vital rates can have substantial long‐term effects on population growth. Approaches based on detailed demographic models, that simultaneously assess abiotic and biotic effects on population growth rate, constitute important tools for establishing the links between the environment and dynamics of populations and communities.
TidsskriftJournal of Ecology
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)666-674
StatusUdgivet - jul. 2009
Udgivet eksterntJa


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