Factors affecting bird population dynamics include climate, harvesting by humans, and habitat changes. Here, we describe the long-term (1972–2006) population trends of seven heron species in NW Italy, an area holding important European breeding populations of these species. Grey (Ardea cinerea), purple (Ardea purpurea), and squacco (Ardeola ralloides) herons, and little egrets (Egretta garzetta) exhibited a strong logistic increase, leveling off around year 2000 at 3–23 times their initial level. Black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) began by increasing like the former species but then dropped to initial levels. Such trends were found to be influenced by several candidate ecological factors, as assessed by ARIMA models. Specifically, grey herons increased following a decrease in human-induced mortality, as quantified by an index of hunting pressure, and an increase in winter temperatures. Little egrets increased mainly with the increase of the extent of ricefields, whereas squacco herons increased with increasing rainfall in the African wintering range. Black-crowned night herons were also positively affected by increasing African rainfall, but only during 1972–1988, whereas in later years competition with other herons could have affected the species’ decline. The improved protection of colony sites by special reserves was unlikely to be the primary trigger of the observed increase, although obviously important for the long-term population persistence. In conclusion, our study shows that heron populations of southern Europe are sensitive to environmental and climatic changes, as well as to temporal variation in human disturbance and changes in foraging habitats, though the importance of the different factors differs among species.

Long-term trends of heron and egret populations in Italy, and the effects of climate, human-induced mortality, and habitat on population dynamics / M. Fasola, D. Rubolini, E. Merli, E. Boncompagni, U. Bressan. - In: POPULATION ECOLOGY. - ISSN 1438-3896. - 52:1(2010), pp. 59-72. [10.1007/s10144-009-0165-1]

Long-term trends of heron and egret populations in Italy, and the effects of climate, human-induced mortality, and habitat on population dynamics

D. Rubolini
Secondo
;
2010

Abstract

Factors affecting bird population dynamics include climate, harvesting by humans, and habitat changes. Here, we describe the long-term (1972–2006) population trends of seven heron species in NW Italy, an area holding important European breeding populations of these species. Grey (Ardea cinerea), purple (Ardea purpurea), and squacco (Ardeola ralloides) herons, and little egrets (Egretta garzetta) exhibited a strong logistic increase, leveling off around year 2000 at 3–23 times their initial level. Black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) began by increasing like the former species but then dropped to initial levels. Such trends were found to be influenced by several candidate ecological factors, as assessed by ARIMA models. Specifically, grey herons increased following a decrease in human-induced mortality, as quantified by an index of hunting pressure, and an increase in winter temperatures. Little egrets increased mainly with the increase of the extent of ricefields, whereas squacco herons increased with increasing rainfall in the African wintering range. Black-crowned night herons were also positively affected by increasing African rainfall, but only during 1972–1988, whereas in later years competition with other herons could have affected the species’ decline. The improved protection of colony sites by special reserves was unlikely to be the primary trigger of the observed increase, although obviously important for the long-term population persistence. In conclusion, our study shows that heron populations of southern Europe are sensitive to environmental and climatic changes, as well as to temporal variation in human disturbance and changes in foraging habitats, though the importance of the different factors differs among species.
Ardeidae; Climate change; Conservation; Hunting mortality; Population trends; Ricefields
Settore BIO/07 - Ecologia
2010
Article (author)
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/64533
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