Incorporating environmental change over succession in an integral projection model of population dynamics of a forest herb


J. P. Dahlgren, Dept of Botany, Stockholm Univ., SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:


Despite seemingly obvious effects of environmental drivers, mechanisms behind long-term changes in plant population sizes over time are often poorly known. We investigated how soil potassium concentration and seed predation are likely to change over time as a result of succession from deciduous forest to spruce forest, and how this affects population trajectories of Actaea spicata. Observations and addition experiments showed that high soil potassium concentration increased individual growth rates. Among-site comparisons showed that soil potassium concentration was lower where proportion spruce was higher. Incorporation of a gradual increase in spruce over time in an integral projection model where individual growth depended on potassium suggested a net decrease in A. spicata population sizes over forest succession. This result suggests that small changes in factors with small effects on individual performance can influence patterns of species occupancy along successional gradients. We incorporated also density independent and density dependent effects of pre-dispersal seed predation over succession into the same model. Seed predation influenced the tree composition at which A. spicata population growth was positive. However, significant effects of A. spicata population size on seed predation intensity did not translate into important feedback effects on population growth trajectories over succession. Our results illustrate how demographic models can be used to gain understanding of the mechanisms behind effects of environmental change on species abundances and distributions by the simultaneous inclusion of changing abiotic and biotic factors.