CIE Spotlight: A chain is as strong as its weakest link: assessing the consequences of habitat loss and degradation in a long-distance migratory shorebird

Yaara A. R. and Marcel K.

Yaara A. R. and Marcel K.

Title: A chain is as strong as its weakest link: assessing the consequences of habitat loss and degradation in a long-distance migratory shorebird

Authors: Yaara Aharon-Rotman, Silke Bauer, Marcel Klaassen

Source: EMU Austral Ornithology, A Journal of Birdlife Australia (Available online 21 December 2015)

Brief summary of the paper: The conservation of migratory species represents a major challenge, as they use multiple sites, all contributing in varying degrees in sustaining high survival and reproductive success.

There is particular concern for shorebirds of the East-Asian Australasian Flyway (EAAF), where declining numbers of migratory species have mostly been attributed to habitat loss along the East-Asian coast. Using a stochastic dynamic programming migration model, we assessed the effect of habitat degradation scenarios along the EAAF on migration behaviour, survival and reproductive success of a long-distance migrating shorebird, the Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres.

Following manipulation of habitat quality through changes in intake rate, we found that changes on the wintering (major non-breeding) ground in South Australia had the highest negative effect on reproductive success and survival. We also identified Taiwan and the Yellow Sea as sites with high importance for reproductive success.

Although habitats along the East-Asian coastline are currently most threatened from a range of global change processes, we highlight the importance of conserving high-quality shorebird wintering habitat in Australia.

This may be of notable importance to trans-equatorial shorebird migrants, which often make a long non-stop flight from their wintering grounds in order to skip low-latitude sites that typically provide little food.