Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Implications of habitat-driven survival and dispersal on recruitment in a spatially structured piping plover population

July 27, 2022

Natal survival and dispersal have important consequences for populations through the movement of genes and individuals. Metapopulation theory predicts either balanced natal dispersal among regions or source–sink dynamics, which can dramatically change population structure. For species reliant on dynamic, early-successional habitats, availability and location of habitat will shift from year to year, requiring primiparous individuals to locate an appropriate breeding habitat. We estimated hatch-year survival to adulthood and natal dispersal rates between two breeding groups of Northern Great Plains piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) from four cohorts (n = 2669 total individuals; 2014–2017). Hatch-year survival to adulthood was slightly higher for individuals hatched on the Missouri River than on the US Alkali Wetlands but declined over time. Individuals hatched on the US Alkali Wetlands were more likely to disperse to breed on the Missouri River (0.33 [0.20, 0.48]) than vice versa (0.17 [0.11, 0.24]). When more habitat was available at the natal site than in the prior year, natal dispersal rates increased. However, despite higher recruitment rates as a result of higher natal fidelity, the Missouri River showed lower total recruitment with a declining trend in the number of recruits, largely due to differences in abundance between breeding groups. Overall, unbalanced, high natal dispersal rates within the Northern Great Plains indicate high connectivity among distinct regions with different water regimes on the Missouri River and on the US Alkali Wetlands driven by fluctuating availability of habitat. Our results suggest that plovers in the Northern Great Plains take advantage of dynamic habitats where they are available in a broad geographic area, which is consistent with a spatially structured panmictic population rather than a true metapopulation, but further research on adult breeding dispersal is needed to clarify population structure.

Publication Year 2022
Title Implications of habitat-driven survival and dispersal on recruitment in a spatially structured piping plover population
DOI 10.1002/ecs2.4190
Authors Rose J. Swift, Michael J. Anteau, Kristen S. Ellis, Megan Ring, Mark H. Sherfy, Dustin L. Toy, David N. Koons
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecosphere
Index ID 70236446
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center