1. A simple two-stage population model was applied to data from a previously published life-table response experiment (LTRE), which examined the toxicity of 4-n-nonylphenol to life-history traits of the polychaete Capitella sp. I. Population growth rates (λ) and the relative sensitivities (= elasticities) of λ to changes in each of the individual life-history traits were calculated. 2. In the present study, the life-history parameters measured in laboratory-reared individuals were manipulated to simulate potential effects of competition and predation on fecundity, time to reproductive maturity and juvenile survival to explore how such factors might influence the sensitivity of population growth rate to toxicant-caused changes in individual life-history traits. 3. Dramatic changes in elasticity patterns among simulations indicate that population growth rates may respond very differently to toxicant exposure depending on the extent to which other demographically limiting factors (e.g. competitors and/or predators) are operating on the population. 4. Effectively predicting the population-level consequences arising from toxicant effects measured on individuals can be improved by exploring the elasticity pattern of λ for the population over a range of realistic ecological situations.
- Life history
- Population dynamics