Tracking data highlight the importance of human-induced mortality for large migratory birds at a flyway scale

Juan Serratosa, Steffen Oppel, Shay Rotics, Andrea Santangeli, Stuart H. M. Butchart, Luis S. Cano-Alonso, Jose Luis Tellería, Ryno Kemp, Aaron Nicholas, Aigars Kalvāns, Aitor Galarza, Aldina M. A. Franco, Alessandro Andreotti, Alexander N. G. Kirschel, Alex Ngari, Alvaro Soutullo, Ana Bermejo-Bermejo, Andre J. Botha, Andrea Ferri, Angelos EvangelidisAnna Cenerini, Anton Stamenov, Antonio Hernández-Matías, Arianna Aradis, Atanas P. Grozdanov, Beneharo Rodríguez, Çağan H. Şekercioğlu, Catuxa Cerecedo-Iglesias, Christina Kassara, Christos Barboutis, Claire Bracebridge, Clara García-Ripollés, Corinne J. Kendall, Damijan Denac, Dana G. Schabo, David R. Barber, Dimitar V. Popov, Dobromir D. Dobrev, Egidio Mallia, Elena Kmetova-Biro, Ernesto Álvarez, Evan R. Buechley, Evgeny A. Bragin, Fabrizio Cordischi, Fadzai M. Zengeya, Flavio Monti, Francois Mougeot, Gareth Tate, João L. Guilherme, Victoria R. Jones, et al.

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Human-induced direct mortality affects huge numbers of birds each year, threatening hundreds of species worldwide. Tracking technologies can be an important tool to investigate temporal and spatial patterns of bird mortality as well as their drivers. We compiled 1704 mortality records from tracking studies across the African-Eurasian flyway for 45 species, including raptors, storks, and cranes, covering the period from 2003 to 2021. Our results show a higher frequency of human-induced causes of mortality than natural causes across taxonomic groups, geographical areas, and age classes. Moreover, we found that the frequency of human-induced mortality remained stable over the study period. From the human-induced mortality events with a known cause (n = 637), three main causes were identified: electrocution (40.5 %), illegal killing (21.7 %), and poisoning (16.3 %). Additionally, combined energy infrastructure-related mortality (i.e., electrocution, power line collision, and wind-farm collision) represented 49 % of all human-induced mortality events. Using a random forest model, the main predictors of human-induced mortality were found to be taxonomic group, geographic location (latitude and longitude), and human footprint index value at the location of mortality. Despite conservation efforts, human drivers of bird mortality in the African-Eurasian flyway do not appear to have declined over the last 15 years for the studied group of species. Results suggest that stronger conservation actions to address these threats across the flyway can reduce their impacts on species. In particular, projected future development of energy infrastructure is a representative example where application of planning, operation, and mitigation measures can enhance bird conservation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110525
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date5 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

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