Using integral projection models to compare population dynamics of four closely related species.
Demographic processes, such as survival, growth, and reproduction, can inform us about invasion risk, extinction risk, and trade-offs in life history strategies. The population dynamics of four Amaranthaceae species in southern Illinois, USA were examined using integral projection models (IPMs) to determine whether vital rates reflect life history among these closely related species. Two of the species, Amaranthus palmeri and Amaranthus tuberculatus, are summer annuals and considered to be some of the most problematic agricultural weeds in the US Midwest. Achyranthes japonica is a relatively new invasive exotic species that primarily inhabits forests. Iresine rhizomatosa, is an endangered species in the study area, which also inhabits forests. Two populations of each species were studied from 2012 to 2014 in which height of individuals were measured and used as the state variable in the IPMs. The Amaranthus species and Achyranthes japonica had an estimated population growth rate >1, projecting increases in population size. By contrast, λ was <1 for I. rhizomatosa, projecting a decline in population size demonstrating its endangered status. Germination rates and seed viability were dependent on species and varied over time. Elasticity analyses showed that survival and growth contributed most to λ for the perennial species; whereas, for the annual species population dynamics were driven primarily by fecundity. Overall, Achyranthes japonica and the Amaranthus species show similar trends in demographic processes that align with their invasive nature and not with their life histories. Furthermore, this study demonstrates that more research on the competitive nature of Achyranthes japonica is needed.