Comparative demography of two giant caulescent rosettes (Espeletia timotensis and E. spicata) from the high tropical Andes



Using field data from previous studies we built matrix models for two populations of giant rosettes, Espeletia timotensis Cuatrec. and E. spicata Sch. Bip. Wedd., from the Andes Cordillera in Mérida, Venezuela. We analysed the models and calculated population growth rate (λ), sensitivities, elasticities and the sensitivity of the elasticities to changes in the vital rates. The analysis showed that the two species behave alike in general demographic terms. In both models, population growth rate is positive and sensitivities of λ to changes in vital rates decrease markedly in this order: plant establishment, progression of juvenile–adult, germination and survival. The relative contributions of vital rates to λ (elasticities) are very similar to those of other woody plant species: a higher contribution of survival and a very low contribution of fecundity. Transition from seedling to juvenile is most important and the younger established stages (juveniles and young adults) play a predominant demographic role in both populations. Seed banks and older adults are playing a relatively minor role in the dynamics of both populations. However, they may be important in relation to unpredictable, favourable or detrimental events. Perturbation analysis of elasticities showed that increasing the rate of plant establishment will decrease the relative importance of stasis. We conclude that both species are demographically very close, and similar to other long-lived woody plant species. However, the two species differ in the role of the seed bank, which seems more important in the demography of E. spicata than in E. timotensis.