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In population biology, elasticity is a measure of the importance of a demographic rate on population growth. A relatively small amount of stochasticity can substantially impact the dynamics of a population whose growth is a function of deterministic and stochastic processes. Analyses of natural populations frequently neglect the latter. Even in a population that fluctuates substantially with time, the results of a deterministic perturbation analysis correlated strongly with results of a perturbation analysis of the long-run stochastic growth rate. Population growth was, however, not uniformly sensitive to demographic rates across different environmental conditions. The overall correlation between deterministic and stochastic perturbation analysis may be high, but environmental variability can dramatically alter the contributions of demographic rates in different environmental conditions. This potentially informative detail is neglected by deterministic analysis, yet it highlights one difficulty when extrapolating results from long-term analysis to shorter-term environmental change.

Original publication




Journal article


Am Nat

Publication Date





424 - 430


Animals, Ecosystem, Female, Markov Chains, Models, Biological, Population Growth, Sheep, Domestic