Factors affecting population recovery from depletion are at the focus of wildlife management. Particularly, it has been debated how life-history characteristics might affect population recovery ability and productivity. Many exploited fish stocks have shown temporal changes towards earlier maturation and reduced adult body size, potentially owing to evolutionary responses to fishing. Whereas such life-history changes have been widely documented, their potential role on stock's ability to recover from exploitation often remains ignored by traditional fisheries management. We used a marine ecosystem model parameterized for Southeastern Australian ecosystem to explore how changes towards "faster" life histories might affect population per capita growth rate r. We show that for most species changes towards earlier maturation during fishing have a negative effect (3–40% decrease) on r during the recovery phase. Faster juvenile growth and earlier maturation were beneficial early in life, but smaller adult body sizes reduced the lifetime reproductive output and increased adult natural mortality. However, both at intra- and inter-specific level natural mortality and trophic position of the species were as important in determining r as species longevity and age of maturation, suggesting that r cannot be predicted from life-history traits alone. Our study highlights that factors affecting population recovery ability and productivity should be explored in a multi-species context, where both age-specific fecundity and survival schedules are addressed simultaneously. It also suggests that contemporary life-history changes in harvested species are unlikely to increase their resilience and recovery ability.
ecosystem modeling, fisheries-induced evolution, per capita population growth rate, recovery, size-based predation