Spatial variation in life history traits plays a crucial role in the structure and dynamics of populations. The demographic responses of local populations to fine-scale habitat heterogeneity have consequences for species at a broader scale and responses vary across spatial scales. Yet, the specific nature of such relationships is unclear across taxa.
We evaluated the spatial variation in demographic traits of cryptic terrestrial salamanders across the broad scale environmental gradient of elevation (i.e. temperature) and the fine-scale gradient of stream distance (i.e. moisture).
Using a 4-years of spatial mark-recapture and count data, we implemented a spatially explicit Integrated Population Model to understand demographic rates across scales. We also investigated how hybridization, which occurs in between lungless salamanders at mid-elevations, may influence demographic rates.
We found that high elevation animals grow faster and move more, especially far from streams likely as a result of increased temperatures. Survival was highest but recruitment rates were lowest at low elevations and significantly declined with distance to stream. We also found that hybrid animals at low elevations had higher survival probabilities.
Our study reveals nuanced spatial variation in demographic rates that differ in magnitude depending on the scale at which they are assessed. Our results also show animals exhibit demographic compensation across abiotic gradients, underscoring the need for further conservation and management efforts to implement spatially explicit and dynamic strategies to match the demographic variation of species and populations of species separated across space.