Lifetime reproductive success and density-dependent, multi-variable resource selection.
McLoughlin PD., Boyce MS., Coulson T., Clutton-Brock T.
Individuals are predicted to maximize lifetime reproductive success (LRS) through selective use of resources; however, a wide range of ecological and social processes may prevent individuals from always using the highest-quality resources available. Resource selection functions (RSFs) estimate the relative amount of time an individual spends using a resource as a function of the proportional availability of that resource. We quantified the association between LRS and coefficients of individual-based RSFs describing lifetime resource selection for 267 female red deer (Cervus elaphus) of the Isle of Rum, Scotland, from 1970 to 2001. LRS was significantly related to first- and second-order effects of selection for Agrostis/Festuca grassland and proximity to the sea coast (quality of forage within Agrostis/Festuca grassland was highest nearest the coast (ratio of short:long grassland)). The benefits of selecting for quality in Agrostis/Festuca grassland, however, traded-off with increases in LRS gained by avoiding conspecific density. LRS was inversely associated with local density, which was highest along the coast, and reproductive benefits of selecting Agrostis/Festuca grassland diminished with increasing density. We discuss the relevance of these results to our understanding of the spatial distribution of red deer abundance, and potential applications of our approach to evolutionary and applied ecology.