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Complex interaction of resource availability, life-history and demography determines the dynamics and stability of stage-structured populations
The dynamics of stage-structured populations facing variability in resource availability and/or demographic factors like unequal sex-ratios, remains poorly understood. We addressed these issues using a stage-structured individual-based model that incorporates life-history parameters common to many holometabolous insects. The model was calibrated using time series data from a 49-generation experiment on laboratory populations of Drosophila melanogaster, subjected to four different combinations of larval and adult nutritional levels. The model was able to capture multiple qualitative and quantitative aspects of the empirical time series across three independent studies. We then simulated the model to explore the interaction of various life-history parameters and nutritional levels in determining population stability. In all nutritional regimes, stability of the populations was reduced upon increasing egg-hatchability, critical mass and proportion of body resource allocated to female fecundity. However, the stability-effects of increasing sensitivity of female-fecundity to adult density varied across nutrition regimes. The effects of unequal sex-ratio and sex-specific culling were greatly influenced by fecundity but not by levels of juvenile nutrition. Finally, we investigated the implications of some of these insights on the efficiency of the widely-used pest control method, Sterile Insect Technique (SIT). We show that increasing the amount of juvenile food had no effects on SIT efficiency when the density-independent fecundity is low, but reduces SIT efficiency when the density-independent fecundity is high.
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