Population dynamics of Great Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) in the Netherlands: interaction effects of winter weather and habitat fragmentation

A. Cormont, C.C. Vos, J. Verboom-Vasiljev, C.A.M. van Turnhout, R.P.B. Foppen, P.W. Goedhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The increased variability in weather as a manifestation of climate change is expected to have negative impacts on population survival in wildlife species, because it will likely lead to increased variation in vital demographic rates (mortality and reproduction) in these populations. For the effective protection of biodiversity, adaptation measures are needed to compensate for the expected increase in weather variability and the negative interaction with habitat fragmentation. As a case study, we studied the fluctuations in Great Bittern numbers (Botaurus stellaris) from 28 monitoring plots scattered over the Netherlands to explore the interaction between the effect of weather and possible remediating effects of the landscape structure. Great Bittern habitat surrounding these plots differs with respect to area, quality, and degree of isolation of this habitat. In western Europe, Great Bitterns are found to be susceptible to continuous loss of suitable habitat due to vegetation succession and fragmentation. Moreover, year-to-year fluctuations in local Great Bittern populations can be caused by severe winter weather or other weather extremes. Our results show that severe winter weather has indeed a significant negative impact on Great Bittern population growth rates. Furthermore, we found that an increased carrying capacity and spatial cohesion (i.e. inverse of habitat fragmentation) contribute to an increase in mean growth rates over the years. As growth rates are higher in large, well-connected habitats, we argue that recovery from negative effects of, e.g. severe winters on Great Bittern population numbers is enhanced in these less-fragmented habitats. We derived generic adaptation measures for enhancing the recovery rate of populations of species in general: one should invest in more large, well-connected nature areas, not only to diminish the negative effects of habitat fragmentation on wildlife populations, but additionally to reduce the impacts of climatic variability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)943-952
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Volume14
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • ardeidae
  • fauna
  • population dynamics
  • climatic change
  • winter
  • weather data
  • habitat fragmentation
  • climate adaptation
  • netherlands
  • climate-change
  • britain
  • variability
  • models
  • trends

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Population dynamics of Great Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) in the Netherlands: interaction effects of winter weather and habitat fragmentation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this