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Abstract

It has become increasingly clear that both density-dependent and density-independent factors may influence the dynamics of mammalian populations; it remains more difficult, however, to determine which factors may play the more significant role in influencing population number in any particular case. In this paper we review published and unpublished data in an analysis of the various factors affecting population size and trend in three European species of deer: Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), Fallow Deer (Dama damd) and Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus). We select these species deliberately because they span a range of body size and reproductive strategy - it seems that different demographic parameters might thus play different roles in the dynamics of the three-which may also be differentially sensitive to the effects of density-dependent and density-independent factors. For each species we examine the available evidence to determine the relative roles and effects of density-dependent feedback mechanisms and density-independent factors such as climate on recruitment and mortality.

Despite differences in bionomic strategy between Red Deer (as essentially a K-strategist) and the more r-selected Roe, few differences emerge between the three species in the relative roles of density-dependent and density-independent factors - or of the stage at the life cycle at which each factor may act. Overall, however, it is clear that variation in density-independent factors, such as climate, appears primarily to affect levels of mortality within a population, while effects of density are particularly marked in relation to changes in recruitment.