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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Quantifying the links between land use and population growth rate in a declining farmland bird

Paquet, Matthieu; Arlt, Debora; Knape, Jonas; Low, Matthew; Forslund, Paer; Paert, Tomas


Land use is likely to be a key driver of population dynamics of species inhabiting anthropogenic landscapes, such as farmlands. Understanding the relationships between land use and variation in population growth rates is therefore critical for the management of many farmland species. Using 24 years of data of a declining farmland bird in an integrated population model, we examined how spatiotemporal variation in land use (defined as habitats with Short and Tall ground vegetation during the breeding season) and habitat-specific demographic parameters relates to variation in population growth taking into account individual movements between habitats. We also evaluated contributions to population growth using transient life table response experiments which gives information on contribution of past variation of parameters and real-time elasticities which suggests future scenarios to change growth rates. LTRE analyses revealed a clear contribution of Short habitats to the annual variation in population growth rate that was mostly due to fledgling recruitment, whereas there was no evidence for a contribution of Tall habitats. Only 18% of the variation in population growth was explained by the modeled local demography, the remaining variation being explained by apparent immigration (i.e., the residual variation). We discuss potential biological and methodological reasons for high contributions of apparent immigration in open populations. In line with LTRE analysis, real-time elasticity analysis revealed that demographic parameters linked to Short habitats had a stronger potential to influence population growth rate than those of Tall habitats. Most particularly, an increase of the proportion of Short sites occupied by Old breeders could have a distinct positive impact on population growth. High-quality Short habitats such as grazed pastures have been declining in southern Sweden. Converting low-quality to high-quality habitats could therefore change the present negative population trend of this, and other species with similar habitat requirements.


conservation; farmland birds; habitat management; habitat quality; integrated population model; land use; Oenanthe oenanthe; population dynamics

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2019, Volume: 9, number: 2, pages: 868-879
Publisher: WILEY