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Application of Life-History Theory and Population Model Analysis to Turtle Conservation
Selina S. Heppell
Vol. 1998, No. 2 (May 1, 1998), pp. 367-375
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1447430
Page Count: 9
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As more reptiles find their way onto endangered species lists, it is increasingly important to identify management alternatives that can be applied across taxa. I have compared life tables from several turtle populations using elasticity analysis, a method that calculates the proportional contribution of each vital rate (age-specific survival and fecundity) to the annual population multiplication rate, λ [ln (λ) = r, the intrinsic rate of increase]. Most freshwater turtles share similar elasticity patterns across age classes, in spite of large variations in mean annual fecundity, annual survival, and age at maturity. High adult survival elasticity and low fecundity elasticity in these species suggests that conservation efforts that reduce mortality of adults are likely to stabilize declining populations. Desert tortoises and sea turtles had different elasticity patterns, with relatively higher juvenile elasticities when summed across age classes. Three different life tables for painted turtles also showed variation in elasticity patterns. Approximate elasticities can be generated for age-based matrices without a complete life table for each species, requiring only age at maturity, adult female annual survival, and population multiplication rate. This approximation may help identify sensitive life stages for poorly known species, thereby guiding research and management efforts and furthering our understanding of life-history patterns.