• Premise of the study: A key question concerns the vulnerability of desert species adapted to harsh, variable climates to future climate change. Evaluating this requires coupling long-term demographic models with information on past and projected future climates. We investigated climatic drivers of population growth using a 22-yr demographic model for Pediocactus bradyi, an endangered cactus in northern Arizona.
• Methods: We used a matrix model to calculate stochastic population growth rates (λs) and the relative influences of life-cycle transitions on population growth. Regression models linked population growth with climatic variability, while stochastic simulations were used to (1) understand how predicted increases in drought frequency and extreme precipitation would affect λs, and (2) quantify variability in λs based on temporal replication of data.
• Key results: Overall λs was below unity (0.961). Population growth was equally influenced by fecundity and survival and significantly correlated with increased annual precipitation and higher winter temperatures. Stochastic simulations increasing the probability of drought and extreme precipitation reduced λs, but less than simulations increasing the probability of drought alone. Simulations varying the temporal replication of data suggested 14 yr were required for accurate λs estimates.
• Conclusions: Pediocactus bradyi may be vulnerable to increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events, particularly drought. Biotic interactions resulting in low survival during drought years outweighed increased seedling establishment following heavy precipitation. Climatic extremes beyond historical ranges of variability may threaten rare desert species with low population growth rates and therefore high susceptibility to stochastic events.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Population viability of Pediocactus brady (Cactaceae) in a changing climate|
|Series title||American Journal of Botany|
|Publisher||Botanical Society of America|
|Contributing office(s)||Western Ecological Research Center|
|Online Only (Y/N)||N|
|Additional Online Files (Y/N)||N|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|