Organisms exist to reproduce and fecundity is the measure of an individual's (or population's) reproductive performance. As such, fecundity (in combination with its sister concepts - see below) can be viewed as one of the two cornerstones of population biology, the other being the ability of an individual to survive in order to reproduce. Mortality (proportion of surviving individuals) expresses the proportion of a population that dies within a defined period of time and fecundity quantifies the new individuals added to the population. A population remains stable when the number of individuals dying is equivalent to the number of new individuals added, and it decreases when mortality exceeds replacement (births and immigration). Although these themes may appear straightforward, the relationships between reproduction, age, population density, and environmental stochasticity (random variation due to environmental changes) are complex and not fully understood. Furthermore, these relationships must be contextualized within the major reproductive strategies that have evolved as a result of different selective pressures, and they must be examined while taking into account the multitude of tradeoffs that occur between reproduction and individual survival.

In ecology, 'fecundity' can be described simply as the physiological maximum potential reproductive output of an individual over its lifetime, and it is usually applied to the female's (rather than a male's) output, although there

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