Net effects of life-history traits explain persistent differences in abundance among similar species

McWilliam, Mike, Dornelas, Maria, Alvarez-Noriega, Mariana, Baird, Andrew H., Connolly, Sean R., and Madin, Joshua S. (2023) Net effects of life-history traits explain persistent differences in abundance among similar species. Ecology, 104 (1). e3863.

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Life-history traits are promising tools to predict species commonness and rarity because they influence a population's fitness in a given environment. Yet, species with similar traits can have vastly different abundances, challenging the prospect of robust trait-based predictions. Using long-term demographic monitoring, we show that coral populations with similar morphological and life-history traits show persistent (decade-long) differences in abundance. Morphological groups predicted species positions along two, well known life-history axes (the fast-slow continuum and size-specific fecundity). However, integral projection models revealed that density-independent population growth (λ) was more variable within morphological groups, and was consistently higher in dominant species relative to rare species. Within-group λ differences projected large abundance differences among similar species in short timeframes, and were generated by small but compounding variation in growth, survival, and reproduction. Our study shows that easily measured morphological traits predict demographic strategies, yet small life-history differences can accumulate into large differences in λ and abundance among similar species. Quantifying the net effects of multiple traits on population dynamics is therefore essential to anticipate species commonness and rarity.

Item ID: 76806
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1939-9170
Keywords: commonness, comparative demography, coral reefs, fitness, functional traits, rarity, recruitment, reproduction, trade-offs
Copyright Information: © 2022 The Ecological Society of America.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP0987892, ARC DP0880544, ARC FT110100609, ARC FT0990652, ARC CE0561432, ARC CE140100020
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2022 09:11
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 100%
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