Spatially explicit analyses unveil density dependence

Ruan Veldtman, Melodie A. McGeoch

Abstract

Density–dependent processes are fundamental in the understanding of species population dynamics. Whereas the benefits of considering the spatial dimension in population biology are widely acknowledged, the implications of doing so for the statistical detection of spatial density dependence have not been examined. The outcome of traditional tests may therefore differ from those that include ecologically relevant locational information on both the prey species and natural enemy. Here, we explicitly incorporate spatial information on individual counts when testing for density dependence between an insect herbivore and its parasitoids. The spatially explicit approach used identified significant density dependence more frequently and in different instances than traditional methods. The form of density dependence detected also differed between methods. These results demonstrate that the explicit consideration of patch location in density–dependence analyses is likely to significantly alter current understanding of the prevalence and form of spatial density dependence in natural populations.

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