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Effects of Lead Exposure, Environmental Conditions, and Metapopulation Processes on Population Dynamics of Spectacled Eiders.

June 26, 2016

Spectacled eider Somateria fischeri numbers have declined and they are considered threatened in accordance with the US Endangered Species Act throughout their range. We synthesized the available information for spectacled eiders to construct deterministic, stochastic, and metapopulation models for this species that incorporated current estimates of vital rates such as nest success, adult survival, and the impact of lead poisoning on survival. Elasticities of our deterministic models suggested that the populations would respond most dramatically to changes in adult female survival and that the reductions in adult female survival related to lead poisoning were locally important. We also examined the sensitivity of the population to changes in lead exposure rates. With the knowledge that some vital rates vary with environmental conditions, we cast stochastic models that mimicked observed variation in productivity. We also used the stochastic model to examine the probability that a specific population will persist for periods of up to 50 y. Elasticity analysis of these models was consistent with that for the deterministic models, with perturbations to adult female survival having the greatest effect on population projections. When used in single population models, demographic data for some localities predicted rapid declines that were inconsistent with our observations in the field. Thus, we constructed a metapopulation model and examined the predictions for local subpopulations and the metapopulation over a wide range of dispersal rates. Using the metapopulation model, we were able to simulate the observed stability of local subpopulations as well as that of the metapopulation. Finally, we developed a global metapopulation model that simulates periodic winter habitat limitation, similar to that which might be experienced in years of heavy sea ice in the core wintering area of spectacled eiders in the central Bering Sea. Our metapopulation analyses suggested that no subpopulation is independent and that future management actions may be improved through a metapopulation framework. For example, management actions could include displacement of breeding females from"sink" areas that reduce the growth potential of the population as a whole. However, this action is contingent upon dispersal among local populations, for which there is limited information. Thus, we recommend that researchers examine dispersal behavior among areas on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in western Alaska. The metapopulation framework could also be applied at the rangewide scale to address the density-dependent limitation of available polynya habitat during winter that may limit the recovery of small subpopulations, such as that on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Reductions in other subpopulations may be necessary to ensure an increase in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta population. Thus, we recommend that managers consider the interpopulation dynamics of spectacled eiders at different spatial scales in future management actions.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Effects of Lead Exposure, Environmental Conditions, and Metapopulation Processes on Population Dynamics of Spectacled Eiders.
DOI 10.3996/nafa.81.0001
Authors Paul L. Flint, James B. Grand, Margaret R. Petersen, Robert F. Rockwell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title North American Fauna
Index ID 70174329
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB

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