The lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is currently considered a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. To identify potential limiting factors for lesser prairie-chicken populations, we developed an age-based matrix model of lesser prairie-chicken population dynamics to compare the relative importance of components of reproduction and survival, and determine if various management alternatives stabilize or increase rates of population change. We based our analyses on an intensive 6-year population study from which demographic rates were estimated for each age class in Kansas. We used deterministic models and elasticity values to identify parameters predicted to have the greatest effect on the rate of population change (λ) at 2 study sites. Last, we used life-stage simulation analysis to simulate various management alternatives. Lambda was <1 for both populations (site 1: λ = 0.54, site 2: λ = 0.74). However, we found differences in sensitivity to nest success and chick survival between populations. The results of the simulated management scenarios complemented the lower-level elasticity analysis and indicated the relative importance of female survival during the breeding season compared with winter. If management practices are only capable of targeting a single demographic rate, changes to either nest success or chick survival had the greatest impact on λ at site 1 and 2, respectively. Management that simultaneously manipulated both nest success and chick survival was predicted to have a greater effect on λ than changes in survival of adult females. In practice, our demographic analyses indicate that effective management should be based on habitat conservation measures to increase components of fecundity.
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Vol. 73 • No. 8