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A network approach to prioritize conservation efforts for migratory birds

July 3, 2019

Habitat loss can trigger migration network collapse by isolating migratory birds’ breeding grounds from non-breeding grounds. Theoretically, habitat loss can have vastly different impacts depending on the site’s importance within the migratory corridor. However, migration network connectivity and the impacts of site loss are not completely understood. Here we used GPS tracking data from four bird species in the Asian flyways to construct migration networks, and proposed a framework for assessing network connectivity for migratory species. We used a node removal process to identify stopover sites with the highest impact on connectivity. In general, migration networks with fewer stopover sites were more vulnerable to habitat loss. Node removal in order from the highest to lowest degree of habitat loss yielded an increase of network resistance similar to random removal. In contrast, resistance increased more rapidly when removing nodes in order from the highest to lowest betweenness value. We quantified the risk of migration network collapse and identified crucial sites by first selecting sites with large contributions to network connectivity, and then identifying which of those sites were likely to be removed from the network (i.e., sites experiencing habitat loss). Among these crucial sites, 42% were not designated as protected areas. Setting priorities for site protection should account for the site’s position within the migration network, rather than only site-specific characteristics. Our framework for assessing migration network connectivity enables site prioritization for conservation of migratory species.

Publication Year 2019
Title A network approach to prioritize conservation efforts for migratory birds
DOI 10.1111/cobi.13383
Authors Yanjie Xu, Yali Si, John Takekawa, Qiang Liu, Herbert H.T. Prins, Shenglai Yin, Diann J. Prosser, Peng Gong, Willem F. de Boer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Biology
Index ID 70209208
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center