Interactive effects of one species on another may simultaneously influence mortality, growth, and fecundity. To quantify the strength of an interaction between two species, we must therefore use techniques that integrate these various responses into estimates of overall effect. Demographic models of populations provide such a framework. Here we develop a demographic model describing the life history of a hemimetabolous insect to evaluate the relative importance of predator effects on mortality and growth of damselflies (Enallagma boreale) in fishless ponds and mayflies (Baetis bicaudatus) in trout streams.
Previous experiments have shown that dragonfly predators in fishless ponds inflict direct mortality and cause reduced growth rates in Enallagma damselflies. Parameterization of the demographic model from these data show, however, that only the direct mortality effects of dragonflies should significantly influence damselfly population dynamics. This is because damselfly size at emergence does not influence adult female fecundity, so the effects of dragonflies on damselfly larval growth do not influence adult fecundity. Likewise, both trout and stonefly predators inflict mortality on larval Baetis mayflies and cause decreases in growth rates. However, our demographic analyses indicate that the growth effects of both predators should dominate the population-dynamic effects on Baetis. This is because size at emergence translates directly into adult fecundity in mayflies. We also present data suggesting that developmental responses to changes in environmental conditions (e.g., predator abundances, resource availabilities) differ between species depending on these same life history parameters.
The biological significance of lethal vs. sublethal predator impacts must be evaluated in a demographic framework to identify whether alterations in growth rate, and the timing of and size at metamorphosis, significantly influence population dynamics. The demographic model used for any particular organism must be tailored to its life history, but the various impacts of interactions with other species can all be integrated into estimates of projected population growth that can then be readily compared among species with different life histories.