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Demographic rates reveal the benefits of protected areas in a long-lived migratory bird.

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Soriano-Redondo, Andrea  ORCID logo
Abadi, Fitsum 


Recent studies have suggested that protected areas often fail to conserve target species. However, the efficacy of terrestrial protected areas is difficult to measure, especially for highly vagile species like migratory birds that may move between protected and unprotected areas throughout their lives. Here, we use a 30-y dataset of detailed demographic data from a migratory waterbird, the Whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus), to assess the value of nature reserves (NRs). We assess how demographic rates vary at sites with varying levels of protection and how they are influenced by movements between sites. Swans had a lower breeding probability when wintering inside NRs than outside but better survival for all age classes, generating a 30-fold higher annual growth rate within NRs. There was also a net movement of individuals from NRs to non-NRs. By combining these demographic rates and estimates of movement (into and out of NRs) into population projection models, we show that the NRs should help to double the population of swans wintering in the United Kingdom by 2030. These results highlight the major effect that spatial management can have on species conservation, even when the areas protected are relatively small and only used during short periods of the life cycle.



demography, migration, protected area, Humans, Animals, Animal Migration, Birds, Anseriformes, Ducks, Seasons, Demography

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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
European Research Council (GA 310820)
UKRI | Natural Environment Research Council (NE/F021690/1)