Knowledge of the relationship between the number of offspring produced (recruitment) and adult abundance is fundamental to forecasting the dynamics of an exploited population. Although small-scale experiments have documented the importance of maternal quality to offspring survival in plants and animals, the effects of this association on the recruitment dynamics of exploited populations are largely unknown. Here, we present results from both a simple population model and a meta-analysis of time-series data from 25 species of exploited marine fishes that suggest that a population of older, larger individuals has a higher maximum reproductive rate than an equivalent population of younger, smaller individuals, and that this difference increases with the reproductive lifespan of the population. These findings (i) establish an empirical link between population age structure and reproductive rate that is consistent with strong effects of maternal quality on population dynamics and (ii) provide further evidence that extended age structure is essential to the sustainability of many exploited fish stocks
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