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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Seed production and predation in a changing climate: new roles for resource and seed predator feedback?

Solbreck, Christer; Knape, Jonas


Climate change may cause changes in the dynamics of populations beyond comparatively simple directional effects. To better understand complex effects on dynamics requires long-term studies of populations that experience changes in climatic conditions. We study the dynamics of a seed-production-seed-predation system, consisting of a perennial herb and its two seed predatory insects, over a 40-yr period during which climate change has caused the annual growing season to increase by 20 d. During this period, plant patches have increased almost threefold in size and seed production has slipped into a pattern of alternate high and low years with a higher variance than in the beginning of the period. We find that seed production is associated with precipitation of the present summer and a non-linear feedback from seed production of the previous year. When previous year's seed production is low, weather forcing and unexplained noise determine the extent of seed production. When previous seed production is high, depleted resources limit seed production. Resource depletion happened frequently in the latter parts of the study but rarely in the beginning. The changing patterns of seed production in turn affect the dynamics of seed predation, which is dominated by one of the seed predators. Its dynamics are strongly linked to seed density fluctuations, but its population growth rate is satiated when resource fluctuations become too large. In the latter part of the study period, when seed fluctuations were alternating between years of high and low density, satiation was common and there was a large increase in surviving seeds in good years. Our study illustrates that a changing climate can fundamentally influence patterns of long-term dynamics at multiple trophic levels.


climate change; masting; predator satiation; resource limitation; seed predation; seed production; trade-offs; Vincetoxicum hirundinaria; weather effects

Published in

2017, Volume: 98, number: 9, pages: 2301-2311
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell