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Resource competition induces heterogeneity and can increase cohort survivorship: selection-event duration matters.

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Resource competition induces heterogeneity and can increase cohort survivorship: selection-event duration matters.

Oecologia. 2013 Dec;173(4):1321-31

Authors: Gosselin JL, Anderson JJ

Abstract
Determining when resource competition increases survivorship can reveal processes underlying population dynamics and reinforce the importance of heterogeneity among individuals in conservation. We ran an experiment mimicking the effects of competition in a growing season on survivorship during a selection event (e.g., overwinter starvation, drought). Using a model fish species (Poecilia reticulata), we studied how food availability and competition affect mass in a treatment stage, and subsequently survivorship in a challenge stage of increased temperature and starvation. The post-treatment mean mass was strongly related to the mean time to mortality and mass at mortality at all levels of competition. However, competition increased variance in mass and extended the right tail of the survivorship curve, resulting in a greater number of individuals alive beyond a critical temporal threshold ([Formula: see text]) than without competition. To realize the benefits from previously experienced competition, the duration of the challenge ([Formula: see text]) following the competition must exceed the critical threshold [Formula: see text] (i.e., competition increases survivorship when [Formula: see text]). Furthermore, this benefit was equivalent to increasing food availability by 20 % in a group without competition in our experiment. The relationship of [Formula: see text] to treatment and challenge conditions was modeled by characterizing mortality through mass loss in terms of the stochastic rate of loss of vitality (individual’s survival capacity). In essence, when the duration of a selection event exceeds [Formula: see text], competition-induced heterogeneity buffers against mortality through overcompensation processes among individuals of a cohort. Overall, our study demonstrates an approach to quantify how early life stage heterogeneity affects survivorship.

PMID: 23912261 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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