Population resistance to climate change: modelling the effects of low recruitment in open populations
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- Svensson, C.J., Jenkins, S.R., Hawkins, S.J. et al. Oecologia (2005) 142: 117. doi:10.1007/s00442-004-1703-3
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Isolated populations or those at the edge of their distribution are usually more sensitive to changes in the environment, such as climate change. For the barnacle Semibalanus balanoides (L.), one possible effect of climate change is that unpredictable spring weather could lead to the mismatching of larval release with spring phytoplankton bloom, hence reducing the recruitment. In this paper, model simulations of a variable open population with space limited recruitment were used to investigate the effects of low and zero recruitment on population abundance in S. balanoides. Data for model parameters was taken from an isolated population in the Isle of Man, British Isles. Model simulations with observed frequencies of years with low recruitment showed only small changes in population dynamics. Increased frequencies of low recruitment had large effects on the variation in population growth rate and free space and on population structure. Furthermore, populations with intermediate to high frequencies of low recruitment appeared more sensitive to additional changes in recruitment. Exchanging low recruitment with zero recruitment severely increased the risk of local extinctions. Simulations with consecutive years of low recruitment showed a substantial increase in free space and an increase in the time taken to recover to normal densities. In conclusion, model simulations indicate that variable populations can be well buffered to changes in the demography caused by introduced environmental noise, but also, that intermediate to high frequencies of disturbance can lead to a swift change in population dynamics, which in turn, may affect the dynamics of whole communities.