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Keywords:

  • Colinus virginianus;
  • density dependence;
  • model;
  • northern bobwhite;
  • population;
  • simulation

Abstract

Density dependence influences northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) reproduction and overwinter mortality. However, the functional forms of these density-dependent relationships or the factors that influence them during the annual life cycle events of this bird are not clear. We used a systems analysis approach with a compartment model based on difference equations (Δt = 3 months) for bobwhites in South Texas to simulate population behavior using 16 different functional forms of density-dependent production and overwinter mortality. During the reproductive season, a weak linear density-dependent relationship resulted in the longest population persistence (up to 100.0 yr), whereas a reverse-sigmoid density-dependent relationship had the worst population persistence (2.5–3.5 yr). Regarding overwinter mortality, a sigmoid or weak linear density-dependent relationship and a weak linear or no density-dependent reproduction relationship had the longest population persistence (87.5–100.0 yr). Weak linear density-dependent reproduction with either sigmoid or weak linear overwinter mortality produced stable fall population trends. Our results indicated that density dependence may have a greater influence on overwinter survival of bobwhites than previously thought. Inclusion of density-dependent functional relationships that represent both density-dependent reproduction and overwinter mortality, were critical for our simulation model to function properly. Therefore, integrating density-dependent relationships for both reproductive and overwinter periods of the annual cycle of bobwhite life history events is essential for conducting realistic bobwhite population simulation analyses that can be used to test different management scenarios in an integrated and interdisciplinary manner. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.