Volume 36, Issue 5 p. 1078-1086
PERSPECTIVE

Demographic correction—A tool for inference from individuals to populations

Adam Klimeš

Corresponding Author

Adam Klimeš

Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

Institute of Botany, Czech Academy of Sciences, Pruhonice, Czech Republic

Correspondence

Adam Klimeš

Email: [email protected]

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Jitka Klimešová

Jitka Klimešová

Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

Institute of Botany, Czech Academy of Sciences, Pruhonice, Czech Republic

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Zdeněk Janovský

Zdeněk Janovský

Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

Institute of Botany, Czech Academy of Sciences, Pruhonice, Czech Republic

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Tomáš Herben

Tomáš Herben

Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

Institute of Botany, Czech Academy of Sciences, Pruhonice, Czech Republic

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First published: 01 March 2022
Citations: 1

Handling Editor: P. William Hughes

Abstract

  1. Estimation of responses of organisms to their environment using experimental manipulations, and comparison of such responses across sets of species, is one of the primary tools in ecology research. The most common approach is to compare the response of a single life stage of species to an environmental factor and use this information to draw conclusions about population dynamics of these species. Such approach ignores the fact that interspecific fitness differences measured at a single life stage are not directly comparable and cannot be extrapolated to lifetime fitness of individuals and thus species’ population dynamics. Comparison of one life stage only while omitting demographic information can strongly bias conclusions, both in experimental studies with a few species and in large comparative studies.
  2. We illustrate the effect of this omission using both an exaggerated fictitious example and biological data on congeneric species differing in their demography. We are showing, taking simple assumptions, that different demography can completely revert conclusions reached by a comparison based on an experiment focusing on a single life stage.
  3. We show that a ‘demographic correction’, namely translating observed effects into differences in outcomes of demographic models, is a solution to this problem. It requires turning the detected effects from the experiment into changes of transition probabilities of projection matrix models. Although such solution is limited by the low number of species with demographic data available, we believe that existing data (and data likely to be collected in the near future) permit at least approximate handling of this problem.

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CONFLICT OF INTEREST

The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT

All used demographic data (from the example of simulated seed predation) are publicly available (see Janovský & Herben, 2020). Data and code are deposited in the Dryad Digital Repository: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.p8cz8w9s6 (Klimeš et al., 2022).