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Accuracy of Short‐Term Demographic Data in Projecting Long‐Term Fate of Populations

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Abstract

Short‐term surveys are useful in conservation of species if they can be used to reliably predict the long‐term fate of populations. However, statistical evaluations of reliability are rare. We studied how well short‐term demographic data (1999–2002) of tartar catchfly (Silene tatarica), a perennial riparian plant, projected the fate and growth of 23 populations of this species up to the year 2010. Surveyed populations occurred along a river with natural flood dynamics and along a regulated river. Riparian plant populations are affected by flooding, which maintains unvegetated shores, while forest succession proceeds in areas with little flooding. Flooding is less severe along the regulated river, and vegetation overgrowth reduces abundance of tartar catchfly on unvegetated shores. We built matrix models to calculate population growth rates and estimated times to population extinction in natural and in regulated rivers, 13 and 10 populations, respectively. Models predicted population survival well (model predictions matched observed survival in 91% of populations) and accurately predicted abundance increases and decreases in 65% of populations. The observed and projected population growth rates differed significantly in all but 3 populations. In most cases, the model overestimated population growth. Model predictions did not improve when data from more years were used (1999–2006). In the regulated river, the poorest model predictions occurred in areas where cover of other plant species changed the fastest. Although vegetation cover increased in most populations, it decreased in 4 populations along the natural river. Our results highlight the need to combine disturbance and succession dynamics in demographic models and the importance of habitat management for species survival along regulated rivers.

Precisión de Datos Demográficos de Corto Plazo en la Proyección del Destino de Poblaciones a Largo Plazo
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Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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