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Comparative breeding performance of Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus along a gradient of land-use intensification and implications for population management

AuthorsSternalski, Audrey ; Bretagnolle, Vincent
KeywordsPopulation dynamics
Reproductive parameters
land-use changes
Circus aeruginosus
Breeding habitat
Issue Date2013
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
CitationIbis 155: 55-67 (2013)
AbstractAssessing variation in breeding performance in relation to habitat characteristics may provide insights into predicting the consequences of land-use change on species ecology and population dynamics. We compared four Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus populations subject to similar environmental conditions, but which differed in habitat composition, ranging from natural habitats to intensively cultivated areas. Using a 6-year dataset, we characterized breeding habitat and diet in these four study sites, and analysed breeding performance in relation to this gradient of land-use intensification. There was minimal variation in breeding performance between study years but consistent variation between study sites. Unexpectedly, Marsh Harriers breeding in intensively cultivated habitats had higher reproductive success than those breeding in more natural habitats, which, however, hosted higher breeding densities, so overall net population productivity (fledglings per unit area) was similar across sites. This resulted from combined effects of density-dependence and different predation rates between study sites. The colonization of intensive farmland habitats may not necessarily impact negatively on population sustainability when breeding success and population density are traded against each other. However, our findings should not mask longer-term conservation issues for populations breeding in these intensively managed areas, and further studies should assess potential long-term negative effects of occupancy of human-altered habitat.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1111/ibi.12003
issn: 0019-1019
e-issn: 1474-919X
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