Extinction, colonization, and distribution patterns of common eider populations nesting in a naturally fragmented landscape

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Spatial distribution, patchy environments, and population turnover have many fundamental implications for conservation ecology. Common eider (Somateria mollissima L., 1758) population processes were investigated in Labrador, Canada, between 1998 and 2003. We predicted that local colonies would exhibit population turnover, that extinction would be negatively related to colony and patch size, that colonization would be negatively related to island isolation, and that intraspecific incidence–abundance relationships would be positive. We found that small colonies were prone to extinction, but patch size was not a significant predictor of extinction, nor was colonization related to isolation. The overall observed annual extinction and colonization rates were 0.11 ± 0.02 and 0.41 ± 0.06, respectively, and showed variation across archipelagos. At two spatial scales we found that mean colony size was a positive predictor of island occupancy (incidence), and these relationships were maintained across years. Our findings show that common eider colonies in Labrador are dynamic and have greater turnover rates than previously expected in a species that is considered highly philopatric. Our findings support the notion that highly mobile organisms such as migratory birds can exhibit characteristics associated with metapopulation processes.

La répartition spatiale, les environnements contagieux et le remplacement des populations ont des implications fondamentales en écologie de la conservation. Nous avons étudié les processus démographiques de l’eider à duvet (Somateria mollissima L., 1758) au Labrador, Canada de 1998 à 2003. Nous avons prédit que les populations locales subiraient un remplacement, que l’extinction serait reliée négativement à la taille de la colonie et de la tache, que la colonisation serait reliée négativement à l’isolement de l’île et que les relations intraspécifiques d’incidence–abondance seraient positives. En réalité, les petites colonies sont vulnérables à l’extinction, mais la taille des taches ne permet pas de prédire l’extinction de façon significative et la colonisation n’est pas reliée à l’isolement. Les taux annuels globaux d’extinction et de colonisation observés sont respectivement de 0,11± 0,02 et de 0,40± 0,06 et varient d’un archipel à un autre. À deux échelles spatiales, la taille moyenne des colonies est un facteur de prédiction positif de l’occupation des îles (occurrence) et ces relations se maintiennent au cours des années. Nos résultats montrent que les colonies d’eiders à duvet au Labrador sont dynamiques et qu’elles possèdent un taux de remplacement plus grand qu’attendu antérieurement chez une espèce considérée comme fortement philopatrique. Nos données appuient la notion que les organismes très mobiles comme les oiseaux migrateurs peuvent afficher des caractéristiques associées aux processus des métapopulations.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2006

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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