Combining movement and population ecology to inform conservation of a threatened species

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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Project Description:

In an increasingly urbanized world, habitat fragmentation has become a principle threat to biodiversity, reducing and isolating species ranges and interrupting ecological processes. The endemic Mauritian Pink Pigeon Nesoenas mayeri is now an intensively managed threatened species which was driven to near extinction in the 1900’s due to habitat loss, disease and invasive predators. A >30 year-year integrated restoration effort involving the establishment of eight subpopulations through captive breeding & reintroduction, supplemental feeding, non-native predator control and long-term monitoring has brought the population back to ~500 individuals. However significant habitat loss throughout the island has reduced the carrying capacity of established subpopulations. Thus, new areas of suitable habitat for additional subpopulations must be identified to significantly boost population numbers. In order to establish viable subpopulations a clear understanding of population demographic drivers and spatial movement is first required.

In order to ascertain the key drivers of population demography long-term capture-mark-recapture data will be analysed to establish rates of survival, fecundity, recruitment and immigration across each subpopulation. Integrated population models will then be utilized to infer dispersal parameters, providing an insight into the source-sink dynamics at an individual and meta-population scale. Following this, existing and novel spatial movement data will be analysed to identify subpopulation home ranges, overlap and movement corridors. Finally, demographic, source-sink and spatial data will be collated in the context of expanding protected area networks and identifying suitable areas within which to establish new pigeon subpopulations.

Policy Impact of Research:

Through identifying key drivers of demographic rates and identifying areas of suitable habitat, this project will lay the foundations for the creation of a viable metapopulation, securing the long-term future of this formerly critically endangered island species.

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