Carnivora population dynamics are as slow and as fast as those of other mammals: implications for their conservation
PLoS One, 8:8, e70354–e70354 (2013)
Of the 285 species of Carnivora 71 are threatened, while many of these species fulfill important ecological roles in their ecosystems as top or meso-predators. Population transition matrices make it possible to study how age-specific survival and fecundity affect population growth, extinction risks, and responses to management strategies. Here we review 38 matrix models from 35 studies on 27 Carnivora taxa, covering 11% of the threatened Carnivora species. We show that the elasticity patterns (i.e. distribution over fecundity, juvenile survival and adult survival) in Carnivora cover the same range in triangular elasticity plots as those of other mammal species, despite the specific place of Carnivora in the food chain. Furthermore, reproductive loop elasticity analysis shows that the studied species spread out evenly over a slow-fast continuum, but also quantifies the large variation in the duration of important life cycles and their contributions to population growth rate.
These general elasticity patterns among species, and their correlation with simple life history characteristics like body mass, age of first reproduction and life span, enables the extrapolation of population dynamical properties to unstudied species. With several examples we discuss how this slow-fast continuum, and related patterns of variation in reproductive loop elasticity, can be used in the formulation of tentative management plans for threatened species that cannot wait for the results of thorough demographic studies. We argue, however, that such management programs should explicitly include a plan for learning about the key demographic rates and how these are affected by environmental drivers and threats.