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Size-Specific Sensitivity: Applying a New Structured Population Model

Michael R. Easterling, Stephen P. Ellner and Philip M. Dixon
Ecology
Vol. 81, No. 3 (Mar., 2000), pp. 694-708
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/177370
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/177370
Page Count: 15
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Size-Specific Sensitivity: Applying a New Structured Population Model
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Abstract

Matrix population models require the population to be divided into discrete stage classes. In many cases, especially when classes are defined by a continuous variable, such as length or mass, there are no natural breakpoints, and the division is artificial. We introduce the "integral projection model," which eliminates the need for division into discrete classes, without requiring any additional biological assumptions. Like a traditional matrix model, the integral projection model provides estimates of the asymptotic growth rate, stable size distribution, reproductive values, and sensitivities of the growth rate to changes in vital rates. However, where the matrix model represents the size distributions, reproductive value, and sensitivities as step functions (constant within a stage class), the integral projection model yields smooth curves for each of these as a function of individual size. We describe a method for fitting the model to data, and we apply this method to data on an endangered plant species, northern monkshood (Aconitum noveboracense), with individuals classified by stem diameter. The matrix and integral models yield similar estimates of the asymptotic growth rate, but the reproductive values and sensitivities in the matrix model are sensitive to the choice of stage classes. The integral projection model avoids this problem and yields size-specific sensitivities that are not affected by stage duration. These general properties of the integral projection model will make it advantageous for other populations where there is no natural division of individuals into stage classes.

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