Unexplained variability among spatial replicates in transient elasticity: implications for evolutionary ecology and management of invasive species.
Understanding actual and potential selection on traits of invasive species requires an assessment of the sources of variation in demographic rates. While some of this variation is assignable to environmental, biotic or historical factors, unexplained demographic variation also may play an important role. Even when sites and populations are chosen as replicates, the residual variation in demographic rates can lead to unexplained divergence of asymptotic and transient population dynamics. This kind of divergence could be important for understanding long- and short-term differences among populations of invasive species, but little is known about it. We investigated the demography of a small invasive tree Psidium cattleianum Sabine in the rainforest of Hawai'i at four sites chosen for their ecological similarity. Specifically, we parameterized and analyzed integral projection models (IPM) to investigate projected variability among replicate populations in: (1) total population size and annual per capita population growth rate during the transient and asymptotic periods; (2) population structure initially and asymptotically; (3) three key parameters that characterize transient dynamics (the weighted distance of the structure at each time step from the asymptotic structure, the strength of the sub-dominant relative to the dominant dynamics, and inherent cyclicity in the subdominant); and (4) proportional sensitivity (elasticity) of population growth rates (both asymptotic and transient) to perturbations of various components of the life cycle. We found substantial variability among replicate populations in all these aspects of the dynamics. We discuss potential consequences of variability across ecologically similar sites for management and evolutionary ecology in the exotic range of invasive species.