UC Santa Barbara
A stochastic model for annual reproductive success.
- Author(s): Kendall, Bruce E.
- Wittmann, Marion E
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttp://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/650724
Demographic stochasticity can have large effects on the dynamics of small populations as well as on the persistence of rare genotypes and lineages. Survival is sensibly modeled as a binomial process, but annual reproductive success (ARS) is more complex and general models for demographic stochasticity do not exist. Here we introduce a stochastic model framework for ARS and illustrate some of its properties. We model a sequence of stochastic events: nest completion, the number of eggs or neonates produced, nest predation, and the survival of individual offspring to independence. We also allow multiple nesting attempts within a breeding season. Most of these components can be described by Bernoulli or binomial processes; the exception is the distribution of offspring number. Using clutch and litter size distributions from 53 vertebrate species, we demonstrate that among-individual variability in offspring number can usually be described by the generalized Poisson distribution. Our model framework allows the demographic variance to be calculated from underlying biological processes and can easily be linked to models of environmental stochasticity or selection because of its parametric structure. In addition, it reveals that the distributions of ARS are often multimodal and skewed, with implications for extinction risk and evolution in small populations.