Compiling Demographic Data into COMPADRE and COMADRE Database
Aggregating data from thousands of published studies into a single dataset enables scientists, students, and conservationists around the world to access fundamental biological data.
Demographic rates describe how animals survive, grow, and reproduce at different ages or stages in their life cycle. These demographic vital rates are affected by genetic, physiological, and environmental factors, and they, in turn, determine how change occurs at the population level. For example, will the population become invasive, remain stable, or decline toward extinction? Demographic vital rates, therefore, provide the basis for understanding fundamental concepts in all areas of biological study, including ecology, evolution, and conservation biology.
The field of demography is remarkably standardized in terms of data collection and analysis, thanks to a few seminal methodologies. The majority of studies on plant and animal demography use matrix population models (MPMs), which provide a robust mathematical framework for linking individual-level vital rates to population-level characteristics, such as the risk of extinction or speed of invasive species spread. Researchers have employed MPMs to describe and examine the factors controlling population dynamics for thousands of plant and animal species worldwide. The uniform structure of MPMs makes it possible to conduct large-scale comparative analyses to explore demographic patterns across the tree of life.
In order to support and advance demographic research, MPMs must be compiled from the scientific literature into a standardized format. To this end, scientists at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Alexander Center for Applied Population Biology worked with an international team of demographic researchers to develop the COMPADRE and COMADRE Matrix Database, an open-access online repository for MPMs. The database, funded by the National Science Foundation, provides researchers, conservation managers, educators, and the public with access to a wealth of fundamental biological data. Lincoln Park Zoo’s direct development of the database ended in 2021, but international partners continue to expand this valuable resource.
For more information, visit the COMPADRE/COMADRE Matrix Database website.