Ringed Plover- Human Disturbance Predicting the population consequences of human disturbance for Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula: a game theory approach

Predicting the population consequences of human disturbance for Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula :a game theory approach DURWYN LILEY* & WILLIAM J. SUTHERLAND

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Human disturbance and its potential impacts upon bird populations are currently topical
and contentious issues for conservationists. Although many studies have revealed a behavioural
impact, or even direct effect on breeding success or survival, these cannot usually be
extended to predict the impact on population size. Here we present a population model
that allows predictions of the effect that changes in human numbers, visiting a 9-km-long
section of the coastline, may have upon the size of a Ringed Plover
Charadrius hiaticula
population.
Human disturbance affects Ringed Plovers in our study area through birds avoiding
areas of high disturbance and, in addition, through the accidental trampling of a small
number of nests by people walking on the beach. Using the level of human disturbance and
habitat variables (which define territory quality) it is possible to predict which areas of beach
are occupied and therefore the sites available to the population. Breeding success, for a given
area of beach, can be predicted from habitat data. Incorporating known, density-independent,
adult mortality allows the equilibrium population size to be predicted. This provides a
model that predicts population size. This model is then used to predict the population that
the site would support with different, hypothetical, levels of disturbance. If nest loss from
human activity was prevented, for example by fencing nests, we predict the Plover population
size would increase by 8%. A complete absence of human disturbance would cause a
population increase of 85%. If the numbers of people were to double, we predict the
population would decrease by 23%.

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Ringed Plover- Human Disturbance Predicting the population consequences of human disturbance for Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula: a game theory approach by Te Arai Kete is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License