Predicting extinction risk in spite of predator-prey oscillations

John Sabo, Leah Gerber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Most population viability analyses (PVA) assume that the effects of species interactions are subsumed by population-level parameters. We examine how robust five commonly used PVA models are to violations of this assumption. We develop a stochastic, stage-structured predator-prey model and simulate prey population vital rates and abundance. We then use simulated data to parameterize and estimate risk for three demographic models (static projection matrix, stochastic projection matrix, stochastic vital rate matrix) and two time series models (diffusion approximation [DA], corrupted diffusion approximation [CDA]). Model bias is measured as the absolute deviation between estimated and observed quasi-extinction risk. Our results highlight three generalities about the application of single-species models to multi-species conservation problems. First, our collective model results suggest that most single-species PVA models overestimate extinction risk when species interactions cause periodic variation in abundance. Second, the DA model produces the most (conservatively) biased risk forecasts. Finally, the CDA model is the most robust PVA to population cycles caused by species interactions. CDA models produce virtually unbiased and relatively precise risk estimates even when populations cycle strongly. High performance of simple time series models like the CDA owes to their ability to effectively partition stochastic and deterministic sources of variation in population abundance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1543-1554
Number of pages12
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Corrupted diffusion approximation
  • Extinction
  • Parameter estimation
  • Population cycles
  • Population viability analysis
  • Predator-prey
  • Projection matrix
  • Species interactions
  • Stage structure
  • Stochasticity
  • Time series
  • Vital rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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