Demographic drivers of decline and recovery in an Afro-Palaearctic migratory bird population

Catriona Morrison (Lead Author), Robert Robinson, Simon Butler, Jacquie A. Clark, Jennifer Gill

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Across Europe, rapid population declines are ongoing in many Afro-Palaearctic migratory bird species, but the development of appropriate conservation actions across such large migratory ranges is severely constrained by lack of understanding of the demographic drivers of these declines. By constructing regional integrated population models (IPMs) for one of the suite of migratory species that is declining in the south-east of Britain but increasing in the north-west, we show that, while annual population growth rates in both regions vary with adult survival, the divergent regional trajectories are primarily a consequence of differences in productivity. Between 1994 and 2012, annual survival and productivity rates ranged over similar levels in both regions, but high productivity rates were rarer in the declining south-east population and never coincided with high survival rates. By contrast, population growth in the north-west was fuelled by several years in which higher productivity coincided with high survival rates. Simulated population trajectories suggest that realistic improvements in productivity could have reversed the decline (i.e. recovery of the population index to ≥ 1) in the south-east. Consequently, actions to improve productivity on European breeding grounds are likely to be a more fruitful and achievable means of reversing migrant declines than actions to improve survival on breeding, passage or sub-Saharan wintering grounds.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20161387
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1842
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2016

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