Declining survival rates in a reintroduced population of the Mauritius kestrel: evidence for non-linear density dependence and environmental stochasticity

Authors

  • M. A. C. Nicoll,

    1. School of Animal & Microbial Sciences, Reading University, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AJ, UK,
    2. Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, Black River, Mauritius, and
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Carl. G. Jones,

    1. Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, Black River, Mauritius, and
    2. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Les Augres Manor, Trinity, Jersey, Channel Islands, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Ken Norris

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Animal & Microbial Sciences, Reading University, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AJ, UK,
    Search for more papers by this author

Ken Norris, School of Animal & Microbial Sciences, Reading University, Whiteknights, PO Box 228, Reading RG6 6AJ, UK. E-mail: k.norris@reading.ac.uk

Summary

  • 1We studied a reintroduced population of the formerly critically endangered Mauritius kestrel Falco punctatus Temmink from its inception in 1987 until 2002, by which time the population had attained carrying capacity for the study area. Post-1994 the population received minimal management other than the provision of nestboxes.
  • 2We analysed data collected on survival (1987–2002) using program MARK to explore the influence of density-dependent and independent processes on survival over the course of the population's development.
  • 3We found evidence for non-linear, threshold density dependence in juvenile survival rates. Juvenile survival was also strongly influenced by climate, with the temporal distribution of rainfall during the cyclone season being the most influential climatic variable. Adult survival remained constant throughout.
  • 4Our most parsimonious capture–mark–recapture statistical model, which was constrained by density and climate, explained 75·4% of the temporal variation exhibited in juvenile survival rates over the course of the population's development.
  • 5This study is an example of how data collected as part of a threatened species recovery programme can be used to explore the role and functional form of natural population regulatory processes. With the improvements in conservation management techniques and the resulting success stories, formerly threatened species offer unique opportunities to further our understanding of the fundamental principles of population ecology.

Ancillary