Implications of the prevalence and magnitude of sustained declines for determining a minimum threshold for favourable population size
Green, Rhys E.
Wilson, Jeremy D.
Public Library of Science
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Green, R. E., Gilbert, G., Wilson, J. D., & Jennings, K. (2020). Implications of the prevalence and magnitude of sustained declines for determining a minimum threshold for favourable population size. PLOS ONE, 15 (2)https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228742
We propose a new approach to quantifying a minimum threshold value for the size of an animal population, below which that population might be categorised as having unfavourable status. Under European Union law, the concept of Favourable Conservation Status requires assessment of populations as having favourable or unfavourable status, but quantitative methods for such assessments have not yet been developed. One population threshold that is well established in conservation biology is the minimum viable population (MVP) defined as the size of a small but stable population with an acceptably low risk of extinction within a specified period. Our approach combines this small-population paradigm MVP concept with a multiplier, which is a factor by which the MVP is multiplied to allow for the risk of a sustained future decline. We demonstrate this approach using data on UK breeding bird population sizes. We used 43-year time-series data for 189 species and a qualitative assessment of population trends over almost 200 years for 229 species to examine the prevalence, duration and magnitude of sustained population declines. Our study addressed the problem of underestimation of the duration and magnitude of declines caused by short runs of monitoring data by allowing for the truncation of time series. The multiplier was derived from probability distributions of decline magnitudes within a given period, adjusted for truncation. Over a surveillance period of 100 years, we estimated that there was a 10% risk across species that a sustained population decline of at least sixteen-fold would begin. We therefore suggest that, in this case, a factor of 16 could be used as the multiplier of small-population MVPs to obtain minimum threshold population sizes for favourable status. We propose this ‘MVP Multiplier’ method as a new and robust approach to obtaining minimum threshold population sizes which integrates the concepts of small-population and declining-population paradigms. The minimum threshold value we propose is intended for use alongside a range of other measures to enable overall assessments of favourable conservation status.
Research Article, Biology and life sciences, Ecology and environmental sciences, Physical sciences
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228742
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/302040
Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Licence URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/