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9.4: Topics for Discussion
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- Read the manuscript by Pfab and Witkowski, (2000), which is a PVA study that is relatively easy to understand. Can you identify some strengths and weaknesses of this PVA? Which assumptions did this study make? What parameters were used? Are there any other model parameters you think could have been useful?
- For this exercise, you are going to construct a simple PVA for a threatened frog species on a sheet of paper. This frog formerly occupied an expansive lowland forest, which over time was disturbed and degraded. A recent survey was able to find only ten frogs (five males and five females), all in one small, isolated forest patch that can accommodate up to 20 frogs. In the spring, males and females form mating pairs; each pair typically produce zero, one, two, three, or four, offspring that survive to breeding age the following year (to create this demographic dataset, flip four coins for each mated pair; the number of heads is the number of offspring). The sex of the offspring is assigned at random (flip a coin for each young animal, with heads for males and tails for females. Individuals not mated because of uneven sex ratios do not breed. After the breeding season, all the adult frogs die. (A) Run five different population simulations for five generations each, and chart population size over time. What percentage of populations would go extinct within the 10 generations? (B) Perform a sensitivity analysis by making the frogs’ living conditions more severe. For example, lower the number of frogs found during the survey to six, or impose 50% mortality on offspring every year due to introduced rats. (C) Perform another sensitivity analysis by making the frogs’ living conditions more accommodating. For example, examine the impact of supplying extra food to the frogs, which would allow more offspring to be produced each year. Examine the results of all your different models to determine which factor is most important to address to ensure the frog species does not go extinct.