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Estimating the per‐capita contribution of habitats and pathways in a migratory network: a modelling approach

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Every year, migratory species undertake seasonal movements along different pathways between discrete regions and habitats. The ability to assess the relative demographic contributions of these different habitats and pathways to the species’ overall population dynamics is critical for understanding the ecology of migratory species, and also has practical applications for management and conservation. Metrics for assessing habitat contributions have been well‐developed for metapopulations, but an equivalent metric is not currently available for migratory populations. Here, we develop a framework for estimating the demographic contributions of the discrete habitats and pathways used by migratory species throughout the annual cycle by estimating the per capita contribution of cohorts using these locations. Our framework accounts for seasonal movements between multiple breeding and non‐breeding habitats and for both resident and migratory cohorts. We illustrate our framework using a hypothetical migratory network of four habitats, which allows us to better understand how variations in habitat quality affect per capita contributions. Results indicate that per capita contributions for any habitat or pathway are dependent on habitat‐specific survival probabilities in all other areas used as part of the migratory circuit, and that contribution metrics are spatially linked (e.g. reduced survival in one habitat also decreases the contribution metric for other habitats). Our framework expands existing theory on the dynamics of spatiotemporally structured populations by developing a generalized approach to estimate the habitat‐ and pathway‐specific contributions of species migrating between multiple breeding and multiple non‐breeding habitats for a range of life histories or migratory strategies. Most importantly, it provides a means of prioritizing conservation efforts towards those migratory pathways and habitats that are most critical for the population viability of migratory species.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2018

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