Managing seabird metapopulations in the Mediterranean: constraints and challenges
Keywords:metapopulation, conservation, dispersal, transfer processes, management policies, research, rescue effect, multi-site capture-recapture models, Mediterranean
In recent times metapopulation models have contributed important insights to conservation, and they have inspired field studies that focus on collecting key data on demography and movement. Seabirds are suitable models for studying ecological processes in metapopulations because they breed in discrete local populations (i.e. colonies) both in space and time. However, in the Mediterranean, seabird colonies mostly show conservation problems at an ecosystem level, linked to human activities (e.g. fisheries, tourism, industrial pollution) and the resulting loss of habitat and deterioration of habitat quality. From a conservation point of view, it is crucial to study transfer processes in seabird metapopulations (i.e. emigration, immigration and colonisation) in order to propose management measures. Conservation agencies should always take into account these processes and the spatial factor involved in metapopulation dynamics. However, it is difficult to estimate demographic parameters at a metapopulation level because of technical and financial constraints. In addition, there is a need to act at large geographical scales, since seabirds are wide-ranging species, which operate in ranges beyond political boundaries and far greater than those encompassed by traditional management practices.
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