Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institut für Agrar- und Gartenbauwissenschaften

When less is more: positive population-level effects of mortality

Experimental and theoretical studies show that mortality imposed on a population can counter-intuitively increase the density of a specific life-history stage or total population density. Understanding positive populationlevel effects of mortality is advancing, illuminating implications for population, community, and applied ecology. Reconciling theory and data, we found that the mathematical models used to study mortality effects vary in the effects predicted and mechanisms proposed. Experiments predominantly demonstrate stage-specific density increases in response to mortality. We argue that the empirical evidence supports theory based on stagestructured population models but not on unstructured models. We conclude that stage-specific positive mortality effects are likely to be common in nature and that accounting for within-population individual variation is essential for developing ecological theory.