Predicting the population consequences of human disturbance for Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula: a game theory approach

Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) Science Article 2


Human disturbance and its potential impacts upon bird populations are currently topical and contentious issues for conservationists. Although many studies have revealed a behavioural impact, or even direct effect on breeding success or survival, these cannot usually be extended to predict the impact on population size. Here we present a population model that allows predictions of the effect that changes in human numbers, visiting a 9-km-long section of the coastline, may have upon the size of a Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula population. Human disturbance affects Ringed Plovers in our study area through birds avoiding areas of high disturbance and, in addition, through the accidental trampling of a small number of nests by people walking on the beach. Using the level of human disturbance and habitat variables (which define territory quality) it is possible to predict which areas of beach are occupied and therefore the sites available to the population. Breeding success, for a given area of beach, can be predicted from habitat data. Incorporating known, density-independent, adult mortality allows the equilibrium population size to be predicted.


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