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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 2(1)

An outline of the dynamics of animal populations.

AJ Nicholson

Australian Journal of Zoology 2(1) 9 - 65
Published: 1954


This article is itself a summarized statement concerning the various influences which affect population densities and the population systems these lead to. Known facts concerning animal populations have been analysed. systematized. and critically examined. using the experimental and mathematical approaches in the simpler situations. The more outstanding conclusions are listed below. Populations are self-governing systems. They regulate their densities in relation to their own properties and those of their environments. This they do by depleting and impairing essential things to the threshold of favourability, or by maintaining reactive inimical factors, such as the attack of natural enemies, at the limit of tolerance. The mechanism of density governance is almost always intraspecific competition, either amongst the animals for a critically important requisite, or amongst natural enemies for which the animals concerned are requisites. Governing reaction induced by density change holds populations in a state of balance in their environments. The characteristic of balance is sustained and effective compensatory reaction which maintains populations in being in spite of even violent changes in the environment, and which adjusts their densities in general conformity with prevailing conditions. Far from being a stationary state, balance is commonly a state of oscillation about the level of the equilibrium density which is for ever changing with environmental conditions. Destructive factors do not add to mortality when they continue to operate over long periods, but merely cause a redistribution of mortality, for the intensity of competition automatically relaxes sufficiently to make room for the destruction they cause. Such compensatory reaction causes the effect of destructive factors upon density to be much less when balance is reattained than that which they produce when they first operate.

Full text doi:10.1071/ZO9540009

© CSIRO 1954

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