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The extent to which age ratios reflect the dynamics of a population was examined by simulation. The results indicate that age ratios often provide ambiguous information and that their facile interpretation can lead to serious management blunders. A sudden rise or fall in mortality rate that affects all age classes equally has no effect on the age ratio. It remains constant at the level prevailing before the demographic change. Even when the ratio responds to a change in rate of increase there are circumstances in which its trend is the same for two populations, one of which is erupting and the other plunging to extinction. Age ratios cannot be interpreted, even in a general way, without additional demographic information, particularly on the population's rate of increase. But since the ratios are themselves usually collected to gauge rate of increase, the direct measurement of this rate renders them largely redundant.
The Journal of Wildlife Management © 1974 Wiley