Estimating density dependence from time series of population age structure.
Lande R., Engen S., Saether BE., Coulson T.
Population fluctuations are caused by demographic and environmental stochasticity, time lags due to life history, and density dependence. We model a general life history allowing density dependence within and among age or stage classes in a population undergoing small or moderate fluctuations around a stable equilibrium. We develop a method for estimating the overall strength of density dependence measured by the rate of return toward equilibrium, and we also consider a simplified population description and forecasting using the density-dependent reproductive value. This generality comes at the cost of requiring a time series of the population age or stage structure instead of a univariate time series of adult or total population size. The method is illustrated by analyzing the dynamics of a fully censused population of red deer (Cervus elaphus) based on annual fluctuations of age structure through 21 years.