Does probability of occurrence relate to population dynamics?

Wilfried Thuiller*, Tamara Münkemüller, Katja H. Schiffers, Damien Georges, Stefan Dullinger, Vincent M. Eckhart, Thomas C. Edwards, Dominique Gravel, Georges Kunstler, Cory Merow, Kara Moore, Christian Piedallu, Steve Vissault, Niklaus E. Zimmermann, Damaris Zurell, Frank M. Schurr

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    102 Citations (Scopus)
    4 Downloads (Pure)


    Hutchinson defined species' realized niche as the set of environmental conditions in which populations can persist in the presence of competitors. In terms of demography, the realized niche corresponds to the environments where the intrinsic growth rate (r) of populations is positive. Observed species occurrences should reflect the realized niche when additional processes like dispersal and local extinction lags do not have overwhelming effects. Despite the foundational nature of these ideas, quantitative assessments of the relationship between range-wide demographic performance and occurrence probability have not been made. This assessment is needed both to improve our conceptual understanding of species' niches and ranges and to develop reliable mechanistic models of species geographic distributions that incorporate demography and species interactions. The objective of this study is to analyse how demographic parameters (intrinsic growth rate r and carrying capacity K ) and population density (N ) relate to occurrence probability (Pocc ). We hypothesized that these relationships vary with species' competitive ability. Demographic parameters, density, and occurrence probability were estimated for 108 tree species from four temperate forest inventory surveys (Québec, western USA, France and Switzerland). We used published information of shade tolerance as indicators of light competition strategy, assuming that high tolerance denotes high competitive capacity in stable forest environments. Interestingly, relationships between demographic parameters and occurrence probability did not vary substantially across degrees of shade tolerance and regions. Although they were influenced by the uncertainty in the estimation of the demographic parameters, we found that r was generally negatively correlated with Pocc, while N, and for most regions K, was generally positively correlated with Pocc. Thus, in temperate forest trees the regions of highest occurrence probability are those with high densities but slow intrinsic population growth rates. The uncertain relationships between demography and occurrence probability suggests caution when linking species distribution and demographic models.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1155-1166
    Number of pages12
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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