The Demographic buffering hypothesis: Evidence and challenges
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonTrends in Ecology & Evolution. 2020, 35 (6), 523-538 10.1016/j.tree.2020.02.004
In (st)age-structured populations, the long-run population growth rate is negatively affected by temporal variation in vital rates. In most cases, natural selection should minimize temporal variation in the vital rates to which the long-run population growth is most sensitive, resulting in demographic buffering. By reviewing empirical studies on demographic buffering in wild populations, we found overall support for this hypothesis. However, we also identified issues when testing for demographic buffering. In particular, solving scaling problems for decomposing, measuring, and comparing stochastic variation in vital rates and accounting for density dependence are required in future tests of demographic buffering. In the current context of climate change, demographic buffering may mitigate the negative impact of environmental variation and help populations to persist in an increasingly variable environment.