Future-proofing threatened species recovery programmes

Theme: Biodiversity, Ecology & Conservation

Primary Supervisor:

Malcolm Nicoll

Behavioural and Population Ecology Theme, IOZ

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Secondary Supervisor:

David Murrell

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

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Additional Supervisor(s):

Project Description:

In response to the ongoing biodiversity crisis it is becoming more obvious that many species threatened with extinction will require long-term support (i.e. management). This is particularly evident in island ecosystems where the triple threats of habitat loss, invasive species, and disease are leading to unprecedented levels of species loss. To counteract this, numerous species recovery and habitat restoration programmes have been implemented, but adapting management actions in response to changes in known and novel threats to population persistence is key to their success.

This project will use two high profile and successful long-term species recovery programmes for endangered, endemic bird species in Mauritius; the Mauritius Kestrel and Pink Pigeon, to demonstrate how detailed demographic and environmental data in conjunction with management activities can be used to future-proof species recovery programmes. The project will explore how (i) changes in invasive predator abundance might drive a biased sex-ratio in a meta-population of Pink pigeons and (ii) long-term changes in rainfall patterns and intensity might impact Mauritius kestrel population viability. The results of this research will be used to guide in-situ, short-term actions and long-term conservation management strategies and policy.

The project will involve desk-based work (UK) and field visits to the species recovery programmes in collaboration with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the National Parks & Conservation Service (Government of Mauritius). It will allow the student to develop skills in; the management and use of long-term data sets; statistical modelling including capture-mark-recapture analyses; and population modelling based around population viability analysis.

Policy Impact of Research:

The proposed project will make a significant contribution to (i) the long-term direction and structure of recovery programmes for a number of Endangered, endemic bird species in Mauritius and (ii) an insight into how currently implemented policy regarding protected areas and habitat restoration may benefit endemic species.

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