Temporal variation in environmental conditions affects population growth directly via its impact on vital rates, and indirectly through induced variation in demographic structure and phenotypic trait distributions. We currently know very little about how these processes jointly mediate population responses to their environment. To address this gap, we develop a general transient life table response experiment (LTRE) which partitions the contributions to population growth arising from variation in (1) survival and reproduction, (2) demographic structure, (3) trait values and (4) climatic drivers. We apply the LTRE to a population of yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventer) to demonstrate the impact of demographic and trait-mediated processes. Our analysis provides a new perspective on demographic buffering, which may be a more subtle phenomena than is currently assumed. The new LTRE framework presents opportunities to improve our understanding of how trait variation influences population dynamics and adaptation in stochastic environments.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecología, evolución, comportamiento y sistemática