Conditions at migratory stopovers or overwintering sites in east Asia driving poorer survival rates for Arctic breeding shorebirds
Date: November 20, 2017
Source: Wildlife Conservation Society
A new study co-authored by WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) addresses concerns over the many Arctic shorebird populations in precipitous decline. Evident from the study is that monitoring and protection of habitat where the birds breed, winter, and stopover is critical to their survival and to that of a global migration spectacle.
To understand why arctic shorebirds are declining and the role humans may be playing, Dr. Rebecca Bentzen of the WCS Arctic Beringia Program and her colleagues set out to quantify adult bird survival.
The scientists collected and combined data across nine breeding sites in the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic in 2010-2014, engaging in unprecedented levels of collaboration as part of the Arctic Shorebird Demographic Network.
Sites included the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) and the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Six species of shorebirds were represented in the study -- American golden-plover, dunlin, semipalmated sandpiper, western sandpiper, red-necked phalarope, and red phalarope.
Testing how ecological and human-related variables affected the adult annual survival of the birds, the scientists observed few breeding ground impacts, suggesting that shorebird declines are not currently driven by conditions experienced on the Arctic breeding grounds.
"In a positive sense, our estimates for adult survival were substantially higher than previously published across five of the six species," said Bentzen. "This is good news; we seem to be doing the right thing in the Arctic as far as conserving these birds."