Separating the effects of climate, bycatch, predation and harvesting on tītī (Ardenna grisea) population dynamics in New Zealand: A model-based assessment

Sam McKechnie, David Fletcher, Jamie Newman, Corey Bragg, Peter W. Dillingham, Rosemary Clucas, Darren Scott, Sebastian Uhlmann, Phil Lyver, Andrew Gormley, Henrik Moller

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A suite of factors may have contributed to declines in the titi (sooty shearwater; Ardenna grisea) population in the New Zealand region since at least the 1960s. Recent estimation of the magnitude of most sources of non-natural mortality has presented the opportunity to quantitatively assess the relative importance of these factors. We fit a range of population dynamics models to a time-series of relative abundance data from 1976 until 2005, with the various sources of mortality being modelled at the appropriate part of the life-cycle. We present estimates of effects obtained from the best-fitting model and using model averaging. The best-fitting models explained much of the variation in the abundance index when survival and fecundity were linked to the Southern Oscillation Index, with strong decreases in adult survival, juvenile survival and fecundity being related to El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events. Predation by introduced animals, harvesting by humans, and bycatch in fisheries also appear to have contributed to the population decline. It is envisioned that the best-fitting models will form the basis for quantitative assessments of competing management strategies. Our analysis suggests that sustainability of the New Zealand titi population will be most influenced by climate, in particular by how climate change will affect the frequency and intensity of ENSO events in the future. Removal of the effects of both depredation by introduced predators and harvesting by humans is likely to have fewer benefits for the population than alleviating climate effects.
TijdschriftPloS one
Exemplaarnummer12 December
StatusGepubliceerd - 1-dec-2020

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