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Can we use a functional trait to construct a generalized model for ungulate populations?

Traill, LW, Plard, F, Gaillard, J-M and Coulson, T (2021) Can we use a functional trait to construct a generalized model for ungulate populations? Ecology. ISSN 1939-9170

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Ecologists have long desired predictive models that allow inference on population dynamics, where detailed demographic data are unavailable. Integral projection models (IPMs) allow both demographic and phenotypic outcomes at the level of the population to be predicted from the distribution of a functional trait, like body mass. In species where body mass markedly influences demographic rates, as is the rule among mammals, then IPMs provide not only opportunity to assess the population responses to a given environment, but also improve our understanding of the complex interplay between traits and demographic outcomes. Here, we develop a body-mass-based approach to constructing generalized, predictive IPMs for species of ungulates covering a broad range of body size (25-400 kg). Despite our best efforts, we found that a reliable and general, functional, trait-based model for ungulates was unattainable even after accounting for among-species variation in both age at first reproduction and litter size. We attribute this to the diversity of reproductive tactics among similar-sized species of ungulates, and to the interplay between density-dependent and environmental factors that shape demographic parameters independent of mass at the local scale. These processes thus drive population dynamics and cannot be ignored. Environmental context generally matters in population ecology, and our study shows this may be the case for functional traits in vertebrate populations.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 0501 Ecological Applications, 0602 Ecology, 0603 Evolutionary Biology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QH Natural history
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (from Sep 19)
Publisher: Wiley
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2021 13:27
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 05:46
DOI or ID number: 10.1002/ecy.3289
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14614
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