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  1. Abstract

    There is an urgent need to synthesize the state of our knowledge on plant responses to climate. The availability of open-access data provide opportunities to examine quantitative generalizations regarding which biomes and species are most responsive to climate drivers. Here, we synthesize time series of structured population models from 162 populations of 62 plants, mostly herbaceous species from temperate biomes, to link plant population growth rates (λ) to precipitation and temperature drivers. We expect: (1) more pronounced demographic responses to precipitation than temperature, especially in arid biomes; and (2) a higher climate sensitivity in short-lived rather than long-lived species. We find that precipitation anomalies have a nearly three-fold larger effect onλthan temperature. Species with shorter generation time have much stronger absolute responses to climate anomalies. We conclude that key species-level traits can predict plant population responses to climate, and discuss the relevance of this generalization for conservation planning.

  2. Abstract

    Stage‐based demographic methods, such as matrix population models (MPMs), are powerful tools used to address a broad range of fundamental questions in ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation science. Accordingly, MPMs now exist for over 3000 species worldwide. These data are being digitised as an ongoing process and periodically released into two large open‐access online repositories: the COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database and the COMADRE Animal Matrix Database. During the last decade, data archiving and curation of COMPADRE and COMADRE, and subsequent comparative research, have revealed pronounced variation in how MPMs are parameterized and reported.

    Here, we summarise current issues related to the parameterisation and reporting of MPMs that arise most frequently and outline how they affect MPM construction, analysis, and interpretation. To quantify variation in how MPMs are reported, we present results from a survey identifying key aspects of MPMs that are frequently unreported in manuscripts. We then screen COMPADRE and COMADRE to quantify how often key pieces of information are omitted from manuscripts using MPMs.

    Over 80% of surveyed researchers (n = 60) state a clear benefit to adopting more standardised methodologies for reporting MPMs. Furthermore, over 85% of the 300 MPMs assessed from COMPADRE and COMADRE omitted one or more elements thatmore »are key to their accurate interpretation. Based on these insights, we identify fundamental issues that can arise from MPM construction and communication and provide suggestions to improve clarity, reproducibility and future research utilising MPMs and their required metadata. To fortify reproducibility and empower researchers to take full advantage of their demographic data, we introduce a standardised protocol to present MPMs in publications. This standard is linked towww.compadre‐, so that authors wishing to archive their MPMs can do so prior to submission of publications, following examples from other open‐access repositories such as DRYAD, Figshare and Zenodo.

    Combining and standardising MPMs parameterized from populations around the globe and across the tree of life opens up powerful research opportunities in evolutionary biology, ecology and conservation research. However, this potential can only be fully realised by adopting standardised methods to ensure reproducibility.

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  3. Abstract

    Matrix population models (MPMs) are an important tool for biologists seeking to understand the causes and consequences of variation in vital rates (e.g. survival, reproduction) across life cycles. Empirical MPMs describe the age‐ or stage‐structured demography of organisms and usually represent the life history of a population during a particular time frame at a specific geographical location.

    The COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database and COMADRE Animal Matrix Database are the most extensive resources for MPM data, collectively containing >12,000 individual projection matrices for >1,100 species globally. Although these databases represent an unparalleled resource for researchers, land managers and educators, the current computational tools available to answer questions with MPMs impose significant barriers to potential COM(P)ADRE database users by requiring advanced knowledge to handle diverse data structures and program custom analysis functions.

    To close this knowledge gap, we present two interrelated R packages designed to (a) facilitate the use of these databases by providing functions to acquire, quality control and manage both the MPM data contained in COMPADRE and COMADRE, and a user's own MPM data (Rcompadre) and (b) present a range of functions to calculate life‐history traits from MPMs in support of ecological and evolutionary analyses (Rage). We provide examples to illustratemore »the use of both.

    RcompadreandRagewill facilitate demographic analyses using MPM data and contribute to the improved replicability of studies using these data. We hope that this new functionality will allow researchers, land managers and educators to unlock the potential behind the thousands of MPMs and ancillary metadata stored in the COMPADRE and COMADRE matrix databases, and in their own MPM data.

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  4. Abstract

    The current extinction and climate change crises pressure us to predict population dynamics with ever‐greater accuracy. Although predictions rest on the well‐advanced theory of age‐structured populations, two key issues remain poorly explored. Specifically, how the age‐dependency in demographic rates and the year‐to‐year interactions between survival and fecundity affect stochastic population growth rates. We use inference, simulations and mathematical derivations to explore how environmental perturbations determine population growth rates for populations with different age‐specific demographic rates and when ages are reduced to stages. We find that stage‐ vs. age‐based models can produce markedly divergent stochastic population growth rates. The differences are most pronounced when there are survival‐fecundity‐trade‐offs, which reduce the variance in the population growth rate. Finally, the expected value and variance of the stochastic growth rates of populations with different age‐specific demographic rates can diverge to the extent that, while some populations may thrive, others will inevitably go extinct.