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Environmental stochasticity: empirical estimates of prairie vole survival with implications for demographic models

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A rich theory exists regarding the potential impact of correlations among vital rates on population projections derived from demographic models. However, relatively little is known about the magnitude of correlations among vital rates in natural populations, particularly in mammals. We used 30years of mark–recapture data from a population of prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster (Wagner, 1842)) to test for differences in survival among mass classes and sexes, in correlations among vital rates, in correlations between vital rates and environmental factors, and in autocorrelation in vital rates. Estimated monthly survival rates did not differ significantly among mass classes and there were no significant cross-correlations among mass classes. Survival of large prairie voles increased in mild winters (i.e., warm temperatures and low snowfall). Survival rates of medium and large voles were negatively autocorrelated at time lags of 9–12months, and survivals of large voles were positively autocorrelated for time lags of <3months. These autocorrelations were not explained by patterns of temperature or precipitation. The observed degree of autocorrelation in vital rates is sufficient to affect projections from demographic models, particularly in short-lived taxa that require seasonal or monthly estimation of vital rates.

Il existe une théorie bien élaborée sur l’impact potentiel des corrélations entre les taux vitaux sur les projections démographiques dérivées des modèles de population. On connaît cependant peu de choses sur l’importance des corrélations entre les taux vitaux dans les populations naturelles, particulièrement chez les mammifères. Nous utilisons des données de marquage–recapture sur 30 années provenant d’une population de campagnols des prairies (Microtus ochrogaster (Wagner, 1842)) afin d’évaluer les différences de survie entre les classes de masse et entre les sexes, les corrélations entre les taux vitaux, les corrélations entre les taux vitaux et les facteurs de l’environnement, et l’autocorrélation entre les taux vitaux. Les taux de survie mensuels estimés ne diffèrent pas significativement d’une classe de masse à l’autre et il n’y a pas de corrélation croisée significative entre les classes de masse. La survie des campagnols des prairies de grande taille augmente durant les hivers doux (c.-à-d. à température élevée et précipitation neigeuse réduite). Les taux de survie des campagnols de moyenne et de grande tailles sont en autocorrélation négative avec un décalage temporel de 9 à 12 mois et les survies des campagnols de grande taille sont en autocorrélation positive avec un décalage temporel de <3 mois. Ces autocorrélations ne s’expliquent pas par des patrons de température ou de précipitations. Le degré d’autocorrélation observé entre les taux vitaux est suffisamment élevé pour affecter les projections générées par les modèles démographiques, particulièrement chez les taxons à vie courte dont on doit estimer les taux vitaux sur une base saisonnière ou mensuelle.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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