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Harvesting can stabilize population fluctuations and buffer the impacts of extreme climatic events
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  • Bart Peeters,
  • Vidar Grøtan,
  • Marlène Gamelon,
  • Vebjørn Veiberg,
  • Aline Magdalena Lee,
  • John Fryxell,
  • Steve Albon,
  • Bernt-Erik Sæther,
  • Steinar Engen,
  • Leif Loe,
  • Brage Hansen
Bart Peeters
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
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Vidar Grøtan
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
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Marlène Gamelon
Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics
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Vebjørn Veiberg
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
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Aline Magdalena Lee
Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet
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John Fryxell
University of Guelph
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Steve Albon
The James Hutton Institute
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Bernt-Erik Sæther
Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics
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Steinar Engen
Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet
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Leif Loe
Norwegian University of Life Sciences
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Brage Hansen
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
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Abstract

Harvesting can magnify the destabilizing effects of environmental perturbations on population dynamics and, thereby, increase extinction risk. However, population-dynamic theory predicts that impacts of harvesting depend on the type and strength of density-dependent regulation. Here, we used logistic population growth models and an empirical reindeer case study to show that low to moderate harvesting can actually buffer populations against environmental perturbations. This occurs because of density-dependent environmental stochasticity, where negative environmental impacts on vital rates are amplified at high population density due to intraspecific resource competition. Simulations from our population models show that even low levels of harvesting may prevent overabundance, thereby dampening population fluctuations and reducing the risk of population collapse and quasi-extinction following environmental perturbations. Thus, depending on the species' life history and the strength of density-dependent environmental drivers, low to moderate harvesting can improve population resistance to increased climate variability and extreme weather expected under global warming.
30 Oct 2021Submitted to Ecology Letters
02 Nov 2021Assigned to Editor
02 Nov 2021Submission Checks Completed
17 Nov 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
15 Dec 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
16 Dec 2021Editorial Decision: Accept