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RARITY AND COMMONNESS AMONG COLUMNAR CACTI: AN EXPLORATION OF THE STORAGE EFFECT FROM A DEMOGRAPHIC VIEWPOINT $100.00
Authors:  Teresa Valverde and Ligia Esparza-Olguín
Abstract:
In this study we explore the idea that the storage effect (i.e. the presence of certain
life-history or demographic features that allow persistence while environmental
conditions are harsh, but trigger growth and regeneration during favorable periods) may
be an important mechanism affecting the success of certain species over others, thus
determining their relative commonness or rarity in variable environments, such as semideserts.
To address this important topic of the ecology of arid environments, we used a
system of three congeneric cacti differing in their degree of rarity: Neobuxbaumia
mezcalensis (the most common), N. tetetzo (intermediate) and N. macrocephala (the
rarest). We studied the demography of these three species in the Tehuacán Valley
(Central Mexico) over a three-year period. We used previously published population
projection matrices for these species to carry out stochastic simulations to explore the
association between particular demographic variability patterns and the degree of rarity
of each species. In most cases λ values were close to unity, with the only exception of N.
mezcalaensis in 2001-02 (λ = 1.091 ± 0.088). Stochastic population growth rates (λs)
were significantly above unity for all species, but Neobuxbaumia mezcalaensis yielded
the highest λs due to its high fecundity in 2001-02. Our results contradict the emergent
view of conservation biology which states that high variance in demographic rates may
increase the risk of population extinction, since in this system, variance in reproductive
performance appears to favour population persistence. The interaction between certain
life history traits (low adult mortality) and demographic variability may allow N. mezcalaensis to be positively influenced by good years but only marginally affected by
bad ones. Demographic variability results in higher persistence probabilities compared to
demographic constancy, supporting the idea that the effectiveness of the storage effect
accounts for the high population numbers in this species. 


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RARITY AND COMMONNESS AMONG COLUMNAR CACTI: AN EXPLORATION OF THE STORAGE EFFECT FROM A DEMOGRAPHIC VIEWPOINT