Behavioural models of population growth rates: implication for conservation and predictions

William J. Sutherland, Ken Norris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Conservation biologists often wish to predict how vertebrate populations will respond to local or global changes in conditions such as those resulting from sea–level rise, deforestation, exploitation, genetically modified crops, global warming, human disturbance or from conservation activities. Predicting the consequences of such changes almost always requires understanding the population growth rate and the density dependence. Traditional means of directly measuring density dependence are often extremely difficult and have the problem that if the environment changes then it is necessary to remeasure the density dependence. We describe an alternative approach that does not require such long datasets and can be used to predict the density dependence under novel conditions. Game theory can be used to describe behavioural decisions that individuals make in response to interference, prey depletion, territorial behaviour or social dominance, and the resultant fitness consequences. It is then possible to predict how survival or reproductive output changes with population size. From this we can then make predictions about the responses of populations to environmental changes. We will illustrate how this can be applied to a range of species and a range of applied problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1273-1284
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1425
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2002

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