Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Eager, Hairdas, Pilson, Rebarber & Tenhumberg in American Naturalist (August 2013) 182(2).


Copyright 2013, University of Chicago Press. Used by permission.


Seed banks are critically important for disturbance specialist plants because seeds of these species germinate only in disturbed soil. Disturbance and seed depth affect the survival and germination probability of seeds in the seed bank, which in turn affect population dynamics. We develop a density-dependent stochastic integral projection model to evaluate the effect of stochastic soil disturbances on plant population dynamics with an emphasis on mimicking how disturbances vertically redistribute seeds within the seed bank. We perform a simulation analysis of the effect of the frequency and mean depth of disturbances on the population’s quasi-extinction probability, as well as the long-term mean and variance of the total density of seeds in the seed bank. We show that increasing the frequency of disturbances increases the long-term viability of the population, but the relationship between the mean depth of disturbance and the long-term viability of the population are not necessarily monotonic for all parameter combinations. Specifically, an increase in the probability of disturbance increases the long-term viability of the total seed bank population. However, if the probability of disturbance is too low, a shallower mean depth of disturbance can increase long-term viability, a relationship that switches as the probability of disturbance increases. However, a shallow disturbance depth is beneficial only in scenarios with low survival in the seed bank.