Strength of density feedback in census data increases from slow to fast life histories

Salvador Herrando-Pérez, Steven Delean, Barry Brook, Corey Bradshaw

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Citations (Scopus)


    Life-history theory predicts an increasing rate of population growth among species arranged along a continuum from slow to fast life histories. We examine the effects of this continuum on density-feedback strength estimated using long-term census data from >700 vertebrates, invertebrates, and plants. Four life-history traits (Age at first reproduction, Body size, Fertility, Longevity) were related statistically to Gompertz strength of density feedback using generalized linear mixed-effects models and multi-model inference. Life-history traits alone explained 10 to 30% of the variation in strength across species (after controlling for time-series length and phylogenetic nonindependence). Effect sizes were largest for body size in mammals and longevity in birds, and density feedback was consistently stronger for smaller-bodied and shorter-lived species. Overcompensatory density feedback (strength <-1) occurred in 20% of species, predominantly at the fast end of the life-history continuum, implying relatively high population variability. These results support the idea that life history leaves an evolutionary signal in long-term population trends as inferred from census data. Where there is a lack of detailed demographic data, broad life-history information can inform management and conservation decisions about rebound capacity from low numbers, and propensity to fluctuate, of arrays of species in areas planned for development, harvesting, protection, and population recovery.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1922-1934
    Number of pages13
    JournalEcology and Evolution
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


    • Age at first reproduction
    • Body size
    • Density dependence
    • Fertility
    • Longevity
    • Population dynamics


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