When density dependence is not instantaneous: Theoretical developments and management implications

Irja I. Ratikainen*, Jennifer A. Gill, Tómas G. Gunnarsson, William J. Sutherland, Hanna Kokko

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)


Most organisms live in changing environments or do not use the same resources at different stages of their lives or in different seasons. As a result, density dependence will affect populations differently at different times. Such sequential density dependence generates markedly different population responses compared to the unrealistic assumption that all events occur simultaneously. Various field studies have also shown that the conditions that individuals experience during one period can influence success and per capita vital rates during the following period. These carry-over effects further complicate any general principles and increase the diversity of possible population dynamics. In this review, we describe how studies of sequential density dependence have diverged in directions that are both taxon-specific and have non-overlapping terminology, despite very similar underlying problems. By exploring and highlighting these similarities, we aim to improve communication between fields, clarify common misunderstandings, and provide a framework for improving conservation and management practices, including sustainable harvesting theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-198
Number of pages15
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008

Other keywords

  • Bird migration
  • Carry-over effects
  • Compensation
  • Delayed density dependence
  • Harvest
  • Population regulation
  • Rodent cycles
  • Seasonality


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