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Population viability analyses on a cycling population: a cautionary tale

Chapman, A. P., Brook, Barry W., Clutton-Brock, T. H., Grenfell, B. T. and Frankham, Richard (2001). Population viability analyses on a cycling population: a cautionary tale. Biological Conservation,97(1):61-69.

Document type: Journal Article
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Title Population viability analyses on a cycling population: a cautionary tale
Author Chapman, A. P.
Brook, Barry W.
Clutton-Brock, T. H.
Grenfell, B. T.
Frankham, Richard
Journal Name Biological Conservation
Publication Date 2001
Volume Number 97
Issue Number 1
ISSN 0006-3207   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Start Page 61
End Page 69
Total Pages 9
Place of Publication Oxford, england
Publisher Elsevier Science
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DEST)
Abstract Population viability analysis (PVA) packages do not always allow realistic simulation of particular life cycle features, so they may produce unrealistic predictions of extinction risk. This was suspected for a cycling Soay sheep population, Ovis aries L., that grows, overeats its habitat and then suffers high winter mortality. We compared projections of PVA models for the sheep that incorporated either an unrealistic ceiling carrying capacity using INMAT (the only choice) and VORTEX (the default), or realistic density dependence for survival (VORTEX). At year 50, the ceiling models predicted extinction probabilities of 60.4% (INMAT) and 87.4% (VORTEX), compared to only 4.6% for the density-dependent model. Small populations were equally likely to increase or decrease with the ceiling models, while they had high probabilities of increase with the density-dependent model, as found in reality. PVA cannot be relied upon to produce realistic projections if inappropriate mechanisms of population regulation are used.
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