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Survival variability and population density in fish populations

To understand the processes that regulate the abundance and persistence of wild populations is a fundamental goal of ecology and a prerequisite for the management of living resources. Variable abundance data, however, make the demonstration of regulation processes challenging . A previously overlooked aspect in understanding how populations are regulated is the possibility that the pattern of variability—its strength as a function of population size—may be more than ‘noise’, thus revealing much about the characteristics of population regulation. Here we show that patterns in survival variability do provide evidence of regulation through density. Using a large, global compilation of marine, anadromous and freshwater fisheries data, we examine the relationship between the variability of survival and population abundance. The interannual variability in progeny survival increases at low adult abundance in an inversely density-dependent fashion. This pattern is consistent with models in which density dependence enters after the larval stage. The findings are compatible with very simple forms of density dependence: even a linear increase of juvenile mortality with adult density adequately explains the results. The model predictions explain why populations with strong regulation may experience large increases in variability at low densities . Furthermore, the inverse relationship between survival http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Nature Nature Publishing Group (NPG)

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