Life-history and ecological correlates of population change in Dutch breeding birds.
Predicting relative extinction risks of animals has become a major challenge in conservation biology. Identifying life-history and ecological traits related to the decline of species helps understand what causes population decreases and sets priorities for conservation action. Here, we use Dutch breeding bird data to correlate species characteristics with national population changes. We modelled population changes between 1990 and 2005 of all 170 breeding bird species using 25 life-history, ecological and behavioural traits as explanatory variables. We used multiple regression and multi-model inference to account for intercorrelated variables, to assess the relative importance of traits that best explain interspecific differences in population trend, and to identify the environmental changes most likely responsible. We found that more breeding birds have increased than decreased in number. The most parsimonious models suggest that ground-nesting and late arrival at the breeding grounds in migratory birds are most strongly correlated with decline. Increasing populations are mainly found among herbivores, sedentary and short-distance migrants, herb- and shrub-nesting birds and large species with a small European range. Declines in ground-nesting and late arriving migrant birds suggest that agricultural intensification, eutrophication and climate change are most likely responsible for changes in Dutch breeding bird diversity. We illustrate that management strategies should primarily focus on the traits and causes responsible for the population changes, in order to be effective and sustainable.
Biological Conservation 143: 173-181
Van Turnhout C.A.M., Foppen R.P.B., Leuven R.S.E.W., Van Strien A. & Siepel H.