Demographic consequences of management actions for the successful reintroduction of the White Stork Ciconia ciconia to the UK

Elouise Mayall, Lucy Groves, Rosalind Kennerley, Mike Hudson, Aldina Franco

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Species reintroductions can be used in conservation management to increase biodiversity and aid in restoring ecosystem function. For reintroductions to be successful, it is important to identify the conditions required to establish a viable population. We developed a demographic model using Vortex10, an individual-based simulation software, to assess the long-term consequences of different management interventions on the success of the recent reintroduction of the white stork, Ciconia ciconia, to the UK. Demographic data obtained from this reintroduced population were supplemented with information from western European populations to build the models. The impact of incorporating different management actions (e.g. supplementing with captive-bred juveniles, provision of nesting platforms, and habitat improvement/supplementary feeding) on the stochastic population growth rate was assessed. Survival rates also differ depending on an individual’s migratory strategy, hence we tested the impact of having different proportions of the population as residents or migrants. Our models showed that if the British stork population adopts a fully migratory strategy, with its associated higher mortality rates, i.e. all individuals migrating to southern Europe or northern Africa, increasing the supplementation rate would not lead to a positive population growth rate. However, management actions which increased the number of fledglings per nest generated a slight positive growth rate that led to a 54.3% increase in population size after 50 years and, when combining all three management options, the population grew by 378.3%. Alternatively, if a minimum of 9% of individuals overwintered in Britain, which is likely based on field observations and tracking data, a positive growth rate can be achieved without additional management due to this behaviour’s lower mortality rates. We conclude that the British white stork population will likely be viable in the long term, but these models and projections should be updated as more demographic data on this novel population become available.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere47
JournalBird Conservation International
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2023

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