Effective conservation of endangered species often is hampered by inadequate knowledge of demography. We extracted information on survival and fecundity from an 18‐month, live‐trapping study of Dipodomys stephensi, and from this we developed an age‐structured demographic model to assess population viability. Adult Stephens’ kangaroo rats persisted longer than juveniles, and adult females persisted longer than adult males. Disappearance rates were high in the first months after initial capture. Thereafter, the fraction of animals persisting decreased slowly and in an approximately linear fashion on a semilogarithmic scale, suggesting age‐independent mortality factors such as predation. Juvenile persistence did not differ substantially between two years of strikingly different rainfall. Onset of breeding followed the start of winter rains. Length of the breeding season, average number of litters per female, and the fraction of first‐year females breeding were much greater in the year of higher rainfall. We propose a birth‐pulse demographic model for D. stephensi that distinguishes juvenile and adult age classes. Temporal environmental variation can be modeled adequately with a constant survivorship schedule and variable fecundity determined by yearly precipitation. Several issues should be resolved, however, before conservation decisions are based on the model. Better estimates of juvenile survivorship are critical, the quantitative relationship between precipitation and fecundity must be determined, and the potential for density dependence and source‐sink population dynamics must be evaluated.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Sep 1, 1994
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