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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Unclear relationships between mean survival rate and its environmental variance in vertebrates

Part, Tomas; Jeppsson, Tobias; Paquet, Matthieu; Arlt, Debora; Laugen, Ane T.; Low, Matthew; Knape, Jonas; Qvarnstrom, Anna; Forslund, Paer


Current environmental changes may increase temporal variability of life history traits of species thus affecting their long-term population growth rate and extinction risk. If there is a general relationship between environmental variances (EVs) and mean annual survival rates of species, that relationship could be used as a guideline for analyses of population growth and extinction risk for populations, where data on EVs are missing. For this purpose, we present a comprehensive compilation of 252 EV estimates from 89 species belonging to five vertebrate taxa (birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish) covering mean annual survival rates from 0.01 to 0.98. Since variances of survival rates are constrained by their means, particularly for low and high mean survival rates, we assessed whether any observed relationship persisted after applying two types of commonly used variance stabilizing transformations: relativized EVs (observed/mathematical maximum) and logit-scaled EVs. With raw EVs at the arithmetic scale, mean-variance relationships of annual survival rates were hump-shaped with small EVs at low and high mean survival rates and higher (and widely variable) EVs at intermediate mean survival rates. When mean annual survival rates were related to relativized EVs the hump-shaped pattern was less distinct than for raw EVs. When transforming EVs to logit scale the relationship between mean annual survival rates and EVs largely disappeared. The within-species juvenile-adult slopes were mainly positive at low (<0.5) and negative at high (>0.5) mean survival rates for raw and relativized variances while these patterns disappeared when EVs were logit transformed. Uncertainties in how to interpret the results of relativized and logit-scaled EVs, and the observed high variation in EV's for similar mean annual survival rates illustrates that extrapolations of observed EVs and tests of life history drivers of survival-EV relationships need to also acknowledge the large variation in these parameters.


annual survival rates; demographic buffering; demographic lability; environmental canalization; environmental fluctuations; environmental stochasticity; process variance; stochastic population growth; temporal variation

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2024, Volume: 14, number: 3, article number: e11104
Publisher: WILEY