Depletion models can predict shorebird distribution at different spatial scales

Jennifer A. Gill, William J. Sutherland, Ken Norris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Predicting the impact of habitat change on populations requires an understanding of the number of animals that a given area can support. Depletion models enable predictions of the numbers of individuals an area can support from prey density and predator searching efficiency and handling time. Depletion models have been successfully employed to predict patterns of abundance over small spatial scales, but most environmental change occurs over large spatial scales. We test the ability of depletion models to predict abundance at a range of scales with black-tailed godwits, Limosa limosa islandica. From the type II functional response of godwits to their prey, we calculated the handling time and searching efficiency associated with these prey. These were incorporated in a depletion model, together with the density of available prey determined from surveys, in order to predict godwit abundance. Tests of these predictions with Wetland Bird Survey data from the British Trust for Ornithology showed significant correlations between predicted and observed densities at three scales: within mudflats, within estuaries and between estuaries. Depletion models can thus be powerful tools for predicting the population size that can be supported on sites at a range of scales. This greatly enhances our confidence in predictions of the consequences of environmental change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-376
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1465
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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