• KEY WORDS. Population viability analysis;
  • individual heterogeneity;
  • population dynamics;
  • population models;
  • simulation models;
  • persistence of small populations

ABSTRACT. Population viability models are commonly used to estimate the probability of persistence of small, threatened, or endangered populations. Demographic, temporal, spatial, and individual heterogeneity are important factors affecting the probability of persistence of small populations. Because stochastic process are intractable analytically (Lud-wig [1996]), computer simulation models are often used for estimating population viability via numerical techniques. Although demographic, spatial, and temporal stochasticity have been incorporated into some population viability models, individual heterogeneity has not been included. In this paper we include individual heterogeneity in a simulation model and examine probabilities of population persistence at different levels of heterogeneity and population size. Individual heterogeneity may increase the probability of persistence of small populations. The mechanism for the extension in persistence may be explained by natural selection. Genotypes persisting through a decline may be those that survive better under the conditions causing the decline. These individuals that survive and reproduce in the face of adverse conditions may extend the probability that a small population persists.