The scaling of population persistence with carrying capacity does not asymptote in populations of a fish experiencing extreme climate variability.
ABSTRACT: Despite growing concerns regarding increasing frequency of extreme climate events and declining population sizes, the influence of environmental stochasticity on the relationship between population carrying capacity and time-to-extinction has received little empirical attention. While time-to-extinction increases exponentially with carrying capacity in constant environments, theoretical models suggest increasing environmental stochasticity causes asymptotic scaling, thus making minimum viable carrying capacity vastly uncertain in variable environments. Using empirical estimates of environmental stochasticity in fish metapopulations, we showed that increasing environmental stochasticity resulting from extreme droughts was insufficient to create asymptotic scaling of time-to-extinction with carrying capacity in local populations as predicted by theory. Local time-to-extinction increased with carrying capacity due to declining sensitivity to demographic stochasticity, and the slope of this relationship declined significantly as environmental stochasticity increased. However, recent 1 in 25 yr extreme droughts were insufficient to extirpate populations with large carrying capacity. Consequently, large populations may be more resilient to environmental stochasticity than previously thought. The lack of carrying capacity-related asymptotes in persistence under extreme climate variability reveals how small populations affected by habitat loss or overharvesting, may be disproportionately threatened by increases in extreme climate events with global warming.
Project description:Theory predicts that network characteristics may help anticipate how populations and communities respond to extreme climatic events, but local environmental context may also influence responses to extreme events. For example, altered fire regimes in many ecosystems may significantly affect the context for how species and communities respond to changing climate. In this study, I tested whether the responses of a pollinator community to extreme drought were influenced by the surrounding diversity of fire histories (pyrodiversity) which can influence their interaction networks via changing partner availability. I found that at the community level, pyrodiverse landscapes promote functional complementarity and generalization, but did not consistently enhance functional redundancy or resistance to simulated co-extinction cascades. Pyrodiversity instead supported flexible behaviors that enable populations to resist perturbations. Specifically, pollinators that can shift partners and network niches are better able to take advantage of the heterogeneity generated by pyrodiversity, thereby buffering pollinator populations against changes in plant abundances. These findings suggest that pyrodiversity is unlikely to improve community-level resistance to droughts, but instead promotes population resistance and community functionality. This study provides unique evidence that resistance to extreme climatic events depends on both network properties and historical environmental context.
Project description:Droughts can have a severe impact on the dynamics of animal populations, particularly in semi-arid and arid environments where herbivore populations are strongly limited by resource availability. Increased drought intensity under projected climate change scenarios can be expected to reduce the viability of such populations, yet this impact has seldom been quantified. In this study, we aim to fill this gap and assess how the predicted worsening of droughts over the 21(st) century is likely to impact the population dynamics of twelve ungulate species occurring in arid and semi-arid habitats. Our results provide support to the hypotheses that more sedentary, grazing and mixed feeding species will be put at high risk from future increases in drought intensity, suggesting that management intervention under these conditions should be targeted towards species possessing these traits. Predictive population models for all sedentary, grazing or mixed feeding species in our study show that their probability of extinction dramatically increases under future emissions scenarios, and that this extinction risk is greater for smaller populations than larger ones. Our study highlights the importance of quantifying the current and future impacts of increasing extreme natural events on populations and species in order to improve our ability to mitigate predicted biodiversity loss under climate change.
Project description:Reconstructing the dynamics of populations is complicated by the different types of stochasticity experienced by populations, in particular if some forms of stochasticity introduce bias in parameter estimation in addition to error. Identification of systematic biases is critical when determining whether the intrinsic dynamics of populations are stable or unstable and whether or not populations exhibit an Allee effect, i.e., a minimum size below which deterministic extinction should follow. Using a simulation model that allows for Allee effects and a range of intrinsic dynamics, we investigated how three types of stochasticity--demographic, environmental, and random catastrophes--affect our ability to reconstruct the intrinsic dynamics of populations. Demographic stochasticity aside, which is only problematic in small populations, we find that environmental stochasticity--positive and negative environmental fluctuations--caused increased error in parameter estimation, but bias was rarely problematic, except at the highest levels of noise. Random catastrophes, events causing large-scale mortality and likely to be more common than usually recognized, caused immediate bias in parameter estimates, in particular when Allee effects were large. In the latter case, population stability was predicted when endogenous dynamics were actually unstable and the minimum viable population size was overestimated in populations with small or non-existent Allee effects. Catastrophes also generally increased extinction risk, in particular when endogenous Allee effects were large. We propose a method for identifying data points likely resulting from catastrophic events when such events have not been recorded. Using social spider colonies (Anelosimus spp.) as models for populations, we show that after known or suspected catastrophes are accounted for, reconstructed growth parameters are consistent with intrinsic dynamical instability and substantial Allee effects. Our results are applicable to metapopulation or time series data and are relevant for predicting extinction in conservation applications or the management of invasive species.
Project description:Extreme weather events can provide unique opportunities for testing models that predict the effect of climate change. Droughts of increasing severity have been predicted under numerous models, thus contemporary droughts may allow us to test these models prior to the onset of the more extreme effects predicted with a changing climate. In the third year of an ongoing severe drought, surveys failed to detect neonate endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizards in a subset of previously surveyed populations where we expected to see them. By conducting surveys at a large number of sites across the range of the species over a short time span, we were able to establish a strong positive correlation between winter precipitation and the presence of neonate leopard lizards over geographic space. Our results are consistent with those of numerous longitudinal studies and are in accordance with predictive climate change models. We suggest that scientists can take immediate advantage of droughts while they are still in progress to test patterns of occurrence in other drought-sensitive species and thus provide for more robust models of climate change effects on biodiversity.
Project description:Extreme climate events can have important consequences for the dynamics of natural populations, and severe droughts are predicted to become more common and intense due to climate change. We analysed infant mortality in relation to drought in two primate species (white-faced capuchins, Cebus capucinus imitator, and Geoffroy's spider monkeys, Ateles geoffroyi) in a tropical dry forest in northwestern Costa Rica. Our survival analyses combine several rare and valuable long-term datasets, including long-term primate life-history, landscape-scale fruit abundance, food-tree mortality, and climate conditions. Infant capuchins showed a threshold mortality response to drought, with exceptionally high mortality during a period of intense drought, but not during periods of moderate water shortage. By contrast, spider monkey females stopped reproducing during severe drought, and the mortality of infant spider monkeys peaked later during a period of low fruit abundance and high food-tree mortality linked to the drought. These divergent patterns implicate differing physiology, behaviour or associated factors in shaping species-specific drought responses. Our findings link predictions about the Earth's changing climate to environmental influences on primate mortality risk and thereby improve our understanding of how the increasing severity and frequency of droughts will affect the dynamics and conservation of wild primates.
Project description:The high extinction risk of small populations is commonly explained by reductions in fecundity and breeder survival associated with demographic and environmental stochasticity. However, ecological theory suggests that population extinctions may also arise from reductions in the number of floaters able to replace the lost breeders. This can be particularly plausible under harsh fragmentation scenarios, where species must survive as small populations subjected to severe effects of stochasticity. Using a woodpecker study in fragmented habitats (2004-2016), we provide here empirical support for the largely neglected hypothesis that floaters buffer population extirpation risks. After controlling for population size, patch size and the intrinsic quality of habitat, populations in patches with floaters had a lower extinction probability than populations in patches without floaters (0.013 versus 0.131). Floaters, which often replace the lost breeders, were less likely to occur in small and low-quality patches, showing that population extirpations may arise from unnoticed reductions in floater numbers in poor-quality habitats. We argue that adequate pools of the typically overlooked floaters may buffer extirpation risks by reducing the detrimental impacts of demographic and environmental stochasticity. However, unravelling the influence of floaters in buffering stochastic effects and promoting population stability require additional studies in an ample array of species and stochastic scenarios.
Project description:Insects are known to display strategies that spread the risk of encountering unfavorable conditions, thereby decreasing the extinction probability of genetic lineages in unpredictable environments. To what extent these strategies influence the epidemiology and evolution of vector-borne diseases in stochastic environments is largely unknown. In triatomines, the vectors of the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiological agent of Chagas' disease, juvenile development time varies between individuals and such variation most likely decreases the extinction risk of vector populations in stochastic environments. We developed a simplified multi-stage vector-borne SI epidemiological model to investigate how vector risk-spreading strategies and environmental stochasticity influence the prevalence and evolution of a parasite. This model is based on available knowledge on triatomine biodemography, but its conceptual outcomes apply, to a certain extent, to other vector-borne diseases. Model comparisons between deterministic and stochastic settings led to the conclusion that environmental stochasticity, vector risk-spreading strategies (in particular an increase in the length and variability of development time) and their interaction have drastic consequences on vector population dynamics, disease prevalence, and the relative short-term evolution of parasite virulence. Our work shows that stochastic environments and associated risk-spreading strategies can increase the prevalence of vector-borne diseases and favor the invasion of more virulent parasite strains on relatively short evolutionary timescales. This study raises new questions and challenges in a context of increasingly unpredictable environmental variations as a result of global climate change and human interventions such as habitat destruction or vector control.
Project description:A persistent debate in population ecology concerns the relative importance of environmental stochasticity and density dependence in determining variability in adult year-class strength, which contributes to future reproduction as well as potential yield in exploited populations. Apart from the strength of the processes, the timing of density regulation may affect how stochastic variation, for instance through climate, translates into changes in adult abundance. In this study, we develop a life-cycle model for the population dynamics of a large marine fish population, Northeast Arctic cod, to disentangle the effects of density-independent and density-dependent processes on early life-stages, and to quantify the strength of compensatory density dependence in the population. The model incorporates information from scientific surveys and commercial harvest, and dynamically links multiple effects of intrinsic and extrinsic factors on all life-stages, from eggs to spawners. Using a state-space approach we account for observation error and stochasticity in the population dynamics. Our findings highlight the importance of density-dependent survival in juveniles, indicating that this period of the life cycle largely determines the compensatory capacity of the population. Density regulation at the juvenile life-stage dampens the impact of stochastic processes operating earlier in life such as environmental impacts on the production of eggs and climate-dependent survival of larvae. The timing of stochastic versus regulatory processes thus plays a crucial role in determining variability in adult abundance. Quantifying the contribution of environmental stochasticity and compensatory mechanisms in determining population abundance is essential for assessing population responses to climate change and exploitation by humans.
Project description:Extreme climate events such as droughts, cold snaps, and hurricanes can be powerful agents of natural selection, producing acute selective pressures very different from the everyday pressures acting on organisms. However, it remains unknown whether these infrequent but severe disruptions are quickly erased by quotidian selective forces, or whether they have the potential to durably shape biodiversity patterns across regions and clades. Here, we show that hurricanes have enduring evolutionary impacts on the morphology of anoles, a diverse Neotropical lizard clade. We first demonstrate a transgenerational effect of extreme selection on toepad area for two populations struck by hurricanes in 2017. Given this short-term effect of hurricanes, we then asked whether populations and species that more frequently experienced hurricanes have larger toepads. Using 70 y of historical hurricane data, we demonstrate that, indeed, toepad area positively correlates with hurricane activity for both 12 island populations of Anolis sagrei and 188 Anolis species throughout the Neotropics. Extreme climate events are intensifying due to climate change and may represent overlooked drivers of biogeographic and large-scale biodiversity patterns.
Project description:Along with global climate change, the occurrence of extreme droughts in recent years has had a serious impact on the Amazon region. Current studies on the driving factors of the 2005 and 2010 Amazon droughts has focused on the influence of precipitation, whereas the impacts of temperature and radiation have received less attention. This study aims to explore the climate-driven factors of Amazonian vegetation decline during the extreme droughts using vegetation index, precipitation, temperature and radiation datasets. First, time-lag effects of Amazonian vegetation responses to precipitation, radiation and temperature were analyzed. Then, a multiple linear regression model was established to estimate the contributions of climatic factors to vegetation greenness, from which the dominant climate-driving factors were determined. Finally, the climate-driven factors of Amazonian vegetation greenness decline during the 2005 and 2010 extreme droughts were explored. The results showed that (i) in the Amazon vegetation greenness responded to precipitation, radiation and temperature, with apparent time lags for most averaging interval periods associated with vegetation index responses of 0-4, 0-9 and 0-6 months, respectively; (ii) on average, the three climatic factors without time lags explained 27.28±21.73% (mean±1 SD) of vegetation index variation in the Amazon basin, and this value increased by 12.22% and reached 39.50±27.85% when time lags were considered; (iii) vegetation greenness in this region in non-drought years was primarily affected by precipitation and shortwave radiation, and these two factors altogether accounted for 93.47% of the total explanation; and (iv) in the common epicenter of the two droughts, pixels with a significant variation in precipitation, radiation and temperature accounted for 36.68%, 40.07% and 10.40%, respectively, of all pixels showing a significant decrease in vegetation index in 2005, and 15.69%, 2.01% and 45.25% in 2010, respectively. Overall, vegetation greenness declines during the 2005 and 2010 extreme droughts were adversely influenced by precipitation, radiation and temperature; this study provides evidence of the influence of multiple climatic factors on vegetation during the 2005 and 2010 Amazon droughts.