Ecological markers to monitor migratory bird populations: Integrating citizen science and transboundary management for conservation purposes.

Affiliation

Department of Animal Science, Division of Wildlife, Faculty of Life Sciences and Engineering, University of Lleida, Lleida, Spain. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

Countries share responsibility for the management and conservation of migratory bird species. However, a limited understanding of population dynamics hampers the implementation of harvest and transboundary management. Age-ratios and population density can be useful indicators to assess population dynamics to improve management and conservation actions. Here, the dynamics of an Atlantic population of Common quail Coturnix coturnix, using 32,508 quail samples and 4814 hunter questionnaires over a 20-year period (1996-2016) served as a comparative study for examining age-ratio patterns related to different geographic zones, population density and weather parameters. Results show that age-ratios varied over zones and years, specifically age-ratio 1 (AR1), used as an index of late breeding attempts, varied from 0.1 to 0.21. Age-ratio 2 (AR2), a surrogate of central recruitment, varied from 0.16 to 0.66. Finally, age-ratio 3 (AR3), used as an indicator of the population's annual breeding success, varied from 3.69 to 6.68. Age-ratio is linked to internal and external factors (i.e. effect of rainfall, variations over time and density-dependent relationships) depicting how quail age groups make segregated migration in time and space. Quail age groups perform a complex pattern of migration because of entwined changes in abundance, migration routes and timing, influencing population connectivity and dynamics. Our findings highlight the relevance of citizen science and transboundary agreements to improve management and conservation measures of migrant species. Administrations and policy-makers in developed and developing countries must coordinate efforts to engage hunters in a participatory management systems to achieve sustainability.

Keywords

Afro-Palearctic species,Age structure index,Decision tools,Harvest management,Hunter attitude,

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