Covariation in population trends and demography reveals targets for conservation action

Catriona A. Morrison, Simon J. Butler, Robert A. Robinson, Jacquie A. Clark, Juan Arizaga, Ainars Aurin, Oriol Baltà, Jaroslav Cepák, Tomasz Chodkiewicz, Virginia Escandell, Ruud P. B. Foppen, Richard D. Gregory, Magne Husby, Frédéric Jiguet, John Atle Kalas, Aleksi Lehikoinen, Ake Lindstrom, Charlotte M. Moshøj, Károly Nagy, Arantza Leal NebotMarkus Piha, Jiri Reif, Thomas Sattler, Jana Skorpliova, Tibor Szép, Norbert Teufelbauer, Kasper Thorup, Chris van Turnhout, Thomas Wenninger, Jennifer A. Gill

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Wildlife conservation policies directed at common and widespread, but declining, species are difficult to design and implement effectively, as multiple environmental changes are likely to contribute to population declines. Conservation actions ultimately aim to influence demographic rates, but targeting actions towards feasible improvements in these is challenging in widespread species with ranges that encompass a wide range of environmental conditions. Across Europe, sharp declines in the abundance of migratory landbirds have driven international calls for action, but actions that could feasibly contribute to population recovery have yet to be identified. Targeted actions to improve conditions on poor-quality sites could be an effective approach, but only if local conditions consistently influence local demography and hence population trends. Using long-term measures of abundance and demography of breeding birds at survey sites across Europe, we show that co69 occurring species with differing migration behaviours have similar directions of local population trends and magnitudes of productivity, but not survival rates. Targeted actions to boost local productivity within Europe, alongside large-scale (non-targeted) environmental protection across non-breeding ranges, could therefore help address the urgent need to halt migrant landbird declines. Such demographic routes to recovery are likely to be increasingly needed to address global wildlife declines
Original languageEnglish
Article number20202955
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1946
Early online date3 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2021


  • conservation
  • demography
  • migration
  • population trends
  • productivity

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