Cryptic density dependence: Effects of covariation between density and site quality in reef fish

  • Shima J
  • Osenberg C
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The importance and strength of density dependence continues to engender debate because of its central importance to population dynamics and regulation. Here, we show how confounding effects of site quality can mask strong effects of density dependence. In particular, we explore spatiotemporal variation and covariation among (1) densities of newly settled coral reef fish (Thalassoma hardwicke), (2) environmental characteristics, and (3) the strength of density-dependent mortality. Environmental features of patch reefs were spatially and temporally variable and influenced density-dependent survival. Higher-quality sites (i.e., reefs possessing features that yield greater numbers of recruits at any given settlement level) received greater settlement, and this relationship masked the operation of density dependence when variation in quality among sites (or times) was not distinguished (a common approach in many observational studies of density dependence). Our work illustrates how spatiotemporal covariation i...

Author-supplied keywords

  • Density independence
  • Density-dependent survival
  • Environmental variability
  • Post-settlement mortality
  • Recruitment
  • Regulation
  • Settlement
  • Site quality
  • Thalassoma hardwicke

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  • Jeffrey S. Shima

  • Craig W. Osenberg

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