The demographic consequences of the cost of reproduction in ungulates.
Proaktor G., Coulson T., Milner-Gulland EJ.
The cost of reproduction can generate covariation between demographic rates that can potentially influence demography and population dynamics in long-lived iteroparous species. However, there has been relatively little work linking the survival cost of reproduction and population dynamics. The apparent scarcity of information on this important link is potentially due to covariation between vital rates, which can substantially influence fluctuations in population size. In this paper we examine the opportunity for survival costs of reproduction to leave a dynamic signature using a simulation model based broadly on an ungulate life history. We find that an increase in the cost delays the onset of reproduction and reduces reproductive rates of young, but not of prime-age, females. Accordingly, the number of offspring produced declines and the interval between reproductive events increases among young females experiencing high cost. These effects are translated to an age structure skewed toward young ages and reduced population density. These results suggest that, by delaying reproduction when conditions deteriorate, females protect their survival during the critical first three years of life, after which the negative effect of reproduction on survival declines. Unless conditions for reproduction are severe, it is not profitable to delay reproduction beyond age 3 years due to the high risk of death before having a chance to reproduce. We also demonstrate that lack of adjustment of reproductive strategies to elevated levels of the cost of reproduction, for example due to rapid changes in environmental conditions, results in lower average density and longevity compared to females that have sufficient time to adjust to changes in the cost. This suggests that even moderate costs of reproduction may have a major negative effect on population dynamics of ungulates.