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Population and the Environment: Analytical Demography and Applied Population Ethics/Co-evolution of population and environment - ecological & metabolic dynamics

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October 16, 2018
11:45 am - 12:30 pm


Chris Kempes (SFI)


While the dynamics of individual populations living in a single location can be hard to predict, it is worth noting that macroecological predictions often lend simple and reliable predictions at appropriate scales. These perspectives typically focus on the constraints imposed by energetics both across species of different size and across various environments. I will focus on two case studies that illustrate the importance of integrating energetic optimizations with local resources. First, I will show how energetic approaches to mammalian physiology are capable of predicting steady-state populations based on body size. Then I will show how broad-scale population biogeography in plants can be predicted from local resources combined with the energetics of plant metabolism.    

Presentation file(s)
Related files

Post-meeting Reflection

Chris Kempes (SFI) Link to the source page

Some of the highlights of the meeting for me were:

Chris Cowie's detailed presentation of the consequences of various axiomatic assumptions about how to make decisions affecting entire populations in terms of the two dimensions of welfare and population size. This type of thinking is nice in that it forces people to explicitly express their preference regarding different types of outcomes and understand the tradeoffs therein. The discussion that followed between Simon Levin, Chris Cowie, and Partha Dasgupta regarding the ultimate moral responsibility to unborn children was fascinating, and touched on some of the deepest moral philosophy questions. Namely tradeoffs between responsibility to self, society, existing children, and potential children where the decision to have an unborn child is connected to which of these categories of welfare one is weighting most strongly, and what one expects the future condition for the child, self, and society to be.

Caroline Bledsoe's discussion of the variety of husband perspectives on contraception across multiple wives was fascinating, highlighting the stronger connection to individual relationships rather than blanket opinions. For example, if a husband viewed contraception as a means for an individual wife to recover from child birth and delay the next birth lead generally to a receptive perspective of contraceptive use. This work connected strongly to Aisha Dasgupta's plot of a negative correlation between fertility and contraceptive prevalence across countries, where outliers in fertility at the same contraceptive use may indicate detailed cultural processes.

Mary Shenk's overview of the demographic transition and contrasting of humans with other primates was also very useful for understanding the broad-scale history of human populations.

Reference Material

Title Author name Source name Year Citation count From Scopus. Refreshed every 5 days. Page views Related file
Predicting maximum tree heights and other traits from allometric scaling and resource limitations Christopher P. Kempes, Geoffrey B. West, Kelly Crowell, Michelle Girvan PLoS ONE 2011 57 9