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Patterns of abundance reveal evidence of translocation and climate effects on Houbara bustard population recovery

Abstract : Population reinforcement, through translocations of individuals, aims to restore populations of threatened species. The increase in population size or geographic distribution is often used as positive facts when assessing the recovery of a species, making abundance monitoring a major criterion. Based on 8-year monitoring of a reinforced population of North African Houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata undulata), over an area of 50,170 km² in the eastern region of Morocco, we assessed the success of management actions by assessing spatial and temporal variation in abundance as well as the factors driving this variation. We used count data to estimate and spatialize population abundance. We then assessed environmental (climate) and management covariates (release effort and hunting management) associated with temporal and spatial variation in abundance. The overall estimate of abundance in the study area was 16,918 individuals (95% CI = 13,629 to 21,027) over our study period, with strong variation between years (range = 10,409-32,401). Our results highlighted strong spatial heterogeneity over the study area, linked to spatial variation in local climate and management conditions. Local abundances were negatively associated with local temperature, were higher in hunting than in non-hunting areas, and were positively influenced by the number of birds released around the focal point. In addition to describing the spatio-temporal variation in the abundance of the species on a large scale, we estimated two major proxies of its conservation status: population size and population trend. The determination of these proxies and the comparison with the counterfactual state of the species confirms the beneficial impact of the restoration and protection programme on the dynamics of the North African Houbara bustard, while underlining the dependence of these dynamics on ongoing management.
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Submitted on : Monday, October 11, 2021 - 3:44:09 PM
Last modification on : Friday, December 3, 2021 - 11:43:03 AM

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Alice Monnier-Corbel, Anne-Christine Monnet, Yves Hingrat, Alexandre Robert. Patterns of abundance reveal evidence of translocation and climate effects on Houbara bustard population recovery. Animal Conservation, Wiley, 2021, ⟨10.1111/acv.12738⟩. ⟨hal-03373645⟩

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