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Concept: Population growth


Understanding cumulative effects of multiple threats is key to guiding effective management to conserve endangered species. The critically endangered, Southern Resident killer whale population of the northeastern Pacific Ocean provides a data-rich case to explore anthropogenic threats on population viability. Primary threats include: limitation of preferred prey, Chinook salmon; anthropogenic noise and disturbance, which reduce foraging efficiency; and high levels of stored contaminants, including PCBs. We constructed a population viability analysis to explore possible demographic trajectories and the relative importance of anthropogenic stressors. The population is fragile, with no growth projected under current conditions, and decline expected if new or increased threats are imposed. Improvements in fecundity and calf survival are needed to reach a conservation objective of 2.3% annual population growth. Prey limitation is the most important factor affecting population growth. However, to meet recovery targets through prey management alone, Chinook abundance would have to be sustained near the highest levels since the 1970s. The most optimistic mitigation of noise and contaminants would make the difference between a declining and increasing population, but would be insufficient to reach recovery targets. Reducing acoustic disturbance by 50% combined with increasing Chinook by 15% would allow the population to reach 2.3% growth.

Concepts: Ecology, Endangered species, Salmon, Conservation, Whale, Population growth, Killer whale, Recovery Plan


Seabird population changes are good indicators of long-term and large-scale change in marine ecosystems, and important because of their many impacts on marine ecosystems. We assessed the population trend of the world’s monitored seabirds (1950-2010) by compiling a global database of seabird population size records and applying multivariate autoregressive state-space (MARSS) modeling to estimate the overall population trend of the portion of the population with sufficient data (i.e., at least five records). This monitored population represented approximately 19% of the global seabird population. We found the monitored portion of the global seabird population to have declined overall by 69.7% between 1950 and 2010. This declining trend may reflect the global seabird population trend, given the large and apparently representative sample. Furthermore, the largest declines were observed in families containing wide-ranging pelagic species, suggesting that pan-global populations may be more at risk than shorter-ranging coastal populations.

Concepts: Sample, Demography, Population, Population ecology, Demographic economics, World population, Carrying capacity, Population growth


BACKGROUND: Information on the age structure within populations of an endangered species can facilitate effective management. The Blue Mountains Water Skink (Eulamprus leuraensis) is a viviparous scincid lizard that is restricted to < 40 isolated montane swamps in south-eastern Australia. We used skeletochronology of phalanges (corroborated by mark-recapture data) to estimate ages of 222 individuals from 13 populations. RESULTS: These lizards grow rapidly, from neonatal size (30 mm snout-vent length) to adult size (about 70 mm SVL) within two to three years. Fecundity is low (mean 2.9 offspring per litter) and is affected by maternal body length and age. Offspring quality may decline with maternal age, based upon captive-born neonates (older females gave birth to slower offspring). In contrast to its broadly sympatric (and abundant) congener E. tympanum, E. leuraensis is short-lived (maximum 6 years, vs 15 years for E. tympanum). Litter size and offspring size are similar in the two species, but female E. leuraensis reproduce annually whereas many E. tympanum produce litters biennially. Thus, a low survival rate (rather than delayed maturation or low annual fecundity) is the key reason why E. leuraensis is endangered. Our 13 populations exhibited similar growth rates and population age structures despite substantial variation in elevation, geographic location and swamp size. However, larger populations (based on a genetic estimate of effective population size) contained older lizards, and thus a wider variance in ages. CONCLUSION: Our study suggests that low adult survival rates, as well as specialisation on a rare and fragmented habitat type (montane swamps) contribute to the endangered status of the Blue Mountains Water Skink.

Concepts: Demography, Population, Population ecology, Lizard, Skink, Population growth, Lygosominae, Eulamprus


Determining which demographic and ecological parameters contribute to variation in population growth rate is crucial to understanding the dynamics of declining populations. This study aimed to evaluate the magnitude and mechanisms of an apparent major decline in an Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica population. This was achieved using a 27-year dataset to estimate changes in population size and in two key demographic rates: adult survival and breeding success. Estimated demographic variation was then related to two ecological factors hypothesised to be key drivers of demographic change, namely the abundance of the main predator at the study site, the Great Skua Stercorarius skua, and Atlantic Puffin chick food supply, over the same 27-year period. Using a population model, we assessed whether estimated variation in adult survival and reproductive success was sufficient to explain the population change observed. Estimates of Atlantic Puffin population size decreased considerably during the study period, approximately halving, whereas Great Skua population estimates increased, approximately trebling. Estimated adult Atlantic Puffin survival remained high across all years and did not vary with Great Skua abundance; however, Atlantic Puffin breeding success and quantities of fish prey brought ashore by adults both decreased substantially through the period. A population model combining best possible demographic parameter estimates predicted rapid population growth, at odds with the long-term decrease observed. To simulate the observed decrease, population models had to incorporate low immature survival, high immature emigration, or increasingly high adult non-breeding rates. We concluded that reduced recruitment of immatures into the breeding population was the most likely cause of population decrease. This study showed that increase in the size of a predator population does not always impact on the survival of adult prey and that reduced recruitment can be a crucial determinant of seabird population size but can easily go undetected.

Concepts: Demography, Population, Population ecology, Demographic economics, World population, Carrying capacity, Population growth, Puffin


It is known that cyanobacteria negatively affect herbivores due to their production of toxins such as protease inhibitors. In the present study we investigated potential interspecific differences between two major herbivores, Daphnia magna and Daphnia pulex, in terms of their tolerance to cyanobacteria with protease inhibitors. Seven clones each of D. magna and of D. pulex were isolated from different habitats in Europe and North America. To test for interspecific differences in the daphnids' tolerance to cyanobacteria, their somatic and population growth rates were determined for each D. magna and D. pulex clone after exposure to varying concentrations of two Microcystis aeruginosa strains. The M. aeruginosa strains NIVA and PCC(-) contained either chymotrypsin or trypsin inhibitors, but no microcystins. Mean somatic and population growth rates on a diet with 20% NIVA were significantly more reduced in D. pulex than in D. magna. On a diet with 10% PCC(-), the population growth of D. pulex was significantly more reduced than that of D. magna. This indicates that D. magna is more tolerant to cyanobacteria with protease inhibitors than D. pulex. The reduction of growth rates was possibly caused by an interference of cyanobacterial inhibitors with proteases in the gut of Daphnia, as many other conceivable factors, which might have been able to explain the reduced growth, could be excluded as causal factors. Protease assays revealed that the sensitivities of chymotrypsins and trypsins to cyanobacterial protease inhibitors did not differ between D. magna and D. pulex. However, D. magna exhibited a 2.3-fold higher specific chymotrypsin activity than D. pulex, which explains the observed higher tolerance to cyanobacterial protease inhibitors of D. magna. The present study suggests that D. magna may control the development of cyanobacterial blooms more efficiently than D. pulex due to differences in their tolerance to cyanobacteria with protease inhibitors.

Concepts: Protease inhibitor, Enzyme, Serine protease, Trypsin, Branchiopoda, Proteolysis, Daphnia, Population growth


The oxygen status of a tumor has significant clinical implications for treatment prognosis, with well-oxygenated subvolumes responding markedly better to radiotherapy than poorly supplied regions. Oxygen is essential for tumor growth, yet estimation of local oxygen distribution can be difficult to ascertain in situ, due to chaotic patterns of vasculature. It is possible to avoid this confounding influence by using avascular tumor models, such as tumor spheroids, a much better approximation of realistic tumor dynamics than monolayers, where oxygen supply can be described by diffusion alone. Similar to in situ tumours, spheroids exhibit an approximately sigmoidal growth curve, often approximated and fitted by logistic and Gompertzian sigmoid functions. These describe the basic rate of growth well, but do not offer an explicitly mechanistic explanation. This work examines the oxygen dynamics of spheroids and demonstrates that this growth can be derived mechanistically with cellular doubling time and oxygen consumption rate (OCR) being key parameters. The model is fitted to growth curves for a range of cell lines and derived values of OCR are validated using clinical measurement. Finally, we illustrate how changes in OCR due to gemcitabine treatment can be directly inferred using this model.

Concepts: Cancer, Oncology, Approximation, Estimation, Population growth, Exponentials, Sigmoid function, Gompertz function


The global population of wild tigers remains dangerously low at fewer than 3500 individuals. Habitat loss, along with poaching, can undermine the international target recovery of doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022. Using a new satellite-based monitoring system, we analyzed 14 years of forest loss data within the 76 landscapes (ranging from 278 to 269,983 km(2)) that have been prioritized for conservation of wild tigers. Our analysis provides an update of the status of tiger habitat and describes new applications of technology to detect precisely where forest loss is occurring in order to curb future habitat loss. Across the 76 landscapes, forest loss was far less than anticipated (79,597 ± 22,629 km(2), 7.7% of remaining habitat) over the 14-year study period (2001-2014). Habitat loss was unevenly distributed within a subset of 29 landscapes deemed most critical for doubling wild tiger populations: 19 showed little change (1.5%), whereas 10 accounted for more than 98% (57,392 ± 16,316 km(2)) of habitat loss. Habitat loss in source population sites within 76 landscapes ranged from no loss to 435 ± 124 km(2) ([Formula: see text], SD = 89, total = 1676 ± 476 km(2)). Doubling the tiger population by 2022 requires moving beyond tracking annual changes in habitat. We highlight near-real-time forest monitoring technologies that provide alerts of forest loss at relevant spatial and temporal scales to prevent further erosion.

Concepts: Conservation biology, Population, Population growth, Tiger, Poaching, Siberian tiger, Bengal tiger


The United Nations (UN) recently released population projections based on data until 2012 and a Bayesian probabilistic methodology. Analysis of these data reveals that, contrary to previous literature, the world population is unlikely to stop growing this century. There is an 80% probability that world population, now 7.2 billion people, will increase to between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion in 2100. This uncertainty is much smaller than the range from the traditional UN high and low variants. Much of the increase is expected to happen in Africa, in part due to higher fertility rates and a recent slowdown in the pace of fertility decline. Also, the ratio of working-age people to older people is likely to decline substantially in all countries, even those that currently have young populations.

Concepts: Africa, Demography, Population, United Arab Emirates, Decision theory, United Nations, World population, Population growth


There is growing evidence of escalating wildlife losses worldwide. Extreme wildlife losses have recently been documented for large parts of Africa, including western, Central and Eastern Africa. Here, we report extreme declines in wildlife and contemporaneous increase in livestock numbers in Kenya rangelands between 1977 and 2016. Our analysis uses systematic aerial monitoring survey data collected in rangelands that collectively cover 88% of Kenya’s land surface. Our results show that wildlife numbers declined on average by 68% between 1977 and 2016. The magnitude of decline varied among species but was most extreme (72-88%) and now severely threatens the population viability and persistence of warthog, lesser kudu, Thomson’s gazelle, eland, oryx, topi, hartebeest, impala, Grevy’s zebra and waterbuck in Kenya’s rangelands. The declines were widespread and occurred in most of the 21 rangeland counties. Likewise to wildlife, cattle numbers decreased (25.2%) but numbers of sheep and goats (76.3%), camels (13.1%) and donkeys (6.7%) evidently increased in the same period. As a result, livestock biomass was 8.1 times greater than that of wildlife in 2011-2013 compared to 3.5 times in 1977-1980. Most of Kenya’s wildlife (ca. 30%) occurred in Narok County alone. The proportion of the total “national” wildlife population found in each county increased between 1977 and 2016 substantially only in Taita Taveta and Laikipia but marginally in Garissa and Wajir counties, largely reflecting greater wildlife losses elsewhere. The declines raise very grave concerns about the future of wildlife, the effectiveness of wildlife conservation policies, strategies and practices in Kenya. Causes of the wildlife declines include exponential human population growth, increasing livestock numbers, declining rainfall and a striking rise in temperatures but the fundamental cause seems to be policy, institutional and market failures. Accordingly, we thoroughly evaluate wildlife conservation policy in Kenya. We suggest policy, institutional and management interventions likely to succeed in reducing the declines and restoring rangeland health, most notably through strengthening and investing in community and private wildlife conservancies in the rangelands.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Population, Cattle, World population, Population growth, Mammals of Africa, Fauna of East Africa


Here we show the extent to which the expected world population growth could be lowered by successfully implementing the recently agreed-upon Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs include specific quantitative targets on mortality, reproductive health, and education for all girls by 2030, measures that will directly and indirectly affect future demographic trends. Based on a multidimensional model of population dynamics that stratifies national populations by age, sex, and level of education with educational fertility and mortality differentials, we translate these goals into SDG population scenarios, resulting in population sizes between 8.2 and 8.7 billion in 2100. Because these results lie outside the 95% prediction range given by the 2015 United Nations probabilistic population projections, we complement the study with sensitivity analyses of these projections that suggest that those prediction intervals are too narrow because of uncertainty in baseline data, conservative assumptions on correlations, and the possibility of new policies influencing these trends. Although the analysis presented here rests on several assumptions about the implementation of the SDGs and the persistence of educational, fertility, and mortality differentials, it quantitatively illustrates the view that demography is not destiny and that policies can make a decisive difference. In particular, advances in female education and reproductive health can contribute greatly to reducing world population growth.

Concepts: Demography, Population, Population ecology, Life expectancy, Demographic economics, United Nations, World population, Population growth