Weather-driven demography and population dynamics of an endemic perennial plant during a 34-year period

Torbjörn Lindell*, Johan Ehrlén, Johan P. Dahlgren


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Increased anthropogenic influence on the environment has accentuated the need to assess how climate and other environmental factors drive vital rates and population dynamics of different types of organisms. However, to allow distinction between the effects of multiple correlated variables, and to capture the effects of rare and extreme climatic conditions, studies extending over decades are often necessary. In this study, we used an individual-based dataset collected in three populations of Pulsatilla vulgaris subsp. gotlandica during 34 years, to explore the effects of variation in precipitation and temperature on vital rates and population dynamics. Most of the observed conspicuous variation in flowering among years was associated with differences in precipitation and temperature in the previous summer and autumn with a higher incidence of flowering following summers with high precipitation and low temperatures. In contrast, climatic variables had no significant effects on individual growth or survival. Although the weather-driven variation in flowering had only moderate absolute effects on the population growth rate, simulated persistent changes in average precipitation and temperature resulted in considerable reductions in population sizes compared with current conditions. Analyses carried out with subsets of data consisting of 5 and 10 years yielded results that strongly deviated from those based on the full dataset. Synthesis. The results of this study illustrate the importance of long-term demographic monitoring to identify key climatic variables affecting vital rates and driving population dynamics in long-lived organisms.

TidsskriftJournal of Ecology
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)582-592
StatusUdgivet - mar. 2022

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Björn Widén for valuable discussions during the upstart and the late Allan Nicklasson who identified some of the cryptogams. This research was funded by Danish Council for Independent Research for the ‘SEAD‐Plant’ project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.


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