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New model more accurately describes migratory animals' extinction risk
Date:11/16/2011

Northwest and Bachman's sparrow in the Southeastit does not fit in all cases.

To adapt the theory for migratory species, Hall and Taylor added more complexity to the model. They divided habitat patches into two categories: those used during breeding season and those used for wintering. In their model, colonization only occurs between breeding and wintering (non-breeding) patches, not between patches of the same type.

"With the migratory model, having an unoccupied breeding patch surrounded by lots of suitable breeding habitat does not necessarily mean that the colonization rate is likely to be high," said Hall. "With migratory animals, the colonists of breeding patches come from non-breeding patches far away."

Piping plovers provide a good example. There are only a limited number of suitable habitat patchesopen, sandy beaches that aren't excessively disturbed by human activityso the number and size of the breeding patches in the north and the wintering patches in the southand the distances between themare well known. Through bird banding and tracking technologies, researchers are beginning to develop an understanding of the migration patterns between breeding and wintering patches. Taylor and Hall's model could be applied to describe these birds' population dynamics.

Hall said that the model highlights the importance of taking into account the colonization and extinction rates at both breeding and non-breeding sites, which is more easily said than done.

"What our model shows is that even if the populations in the breeding areas look healthy, without knowing the state of the non-breeding areas, we could be vastly underestimating the likelihood of extinction," he said.


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Contact: Richard Hall
rjhall@uga.edu
706-542-3971
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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