Using adaptive management to determine requirements of re-introduced populations: the case of the New Zealand hihi



    1. Wildlife Ecology Group, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, New Zealand;
    2. Oceania Chair, IUCN-SSC Re-introduction Specialist Group; and
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    1. Wildlife Ecology Group, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, New Zealand;
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    1. Department of Conservation, Warkworth Area Office, PO Box 474, Warkworth, New Zealand
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Doug P. Armstrong, Ecology Building 624, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, New Zealand (fax + 64 6350 5623; e-mail


  • 1Adaptive management involves the development of predictive models, strategic manipulation of management actions to gain information, and subsequent updating of the models and management. The paradigm has several characteristics that make it an effective approach for determining requirements of re-introduced populations.
  • 2Adaptive management was applied to the re-introduction of hihi Notiomystis cincta, a New Zealand forest bird that had been reduced to a single island population. Following three previous failed re-introductions, we initiated an 8-year series of management manipulations when hihi were re-introduced to Mokoia Island in 1994.
  • 3We developed a population model for projecting outcomes under potential management scenarios, and updated it on an annual basis. The population model combined submodels for survival and reproduction that were selected from sets of candidate models using an information-theoretic approach. All projections incorporated demographic stochasticity, and later projections incorporated uncertainty associated with model selection and parameter estimation.
  • 4The programme showed that some actions (e.g. the provision of sugar water during breeding season and mite control) substantially increased the population's growth rate, but that persistence was uncertain under any management scenario. The population growth rate was shown to be constrained by a low adult survival rate that was unaffected by supplementary feeding, and was associated with a feature of the island (high density of Aspergillus fumigatus spores) that could not be remedied by management. Hihi were therefore removed from Mokoia. However, the management actions shown to be effective on Mokoia have now been used to produce sustained growth in three other re-introduced hihi populations.
  • 6Synthesis and applications. The results illustrate how adaptive management can facilitate successful species recovery. Without manipulation of management treatments, the Mokoia hihi re-introduction would have just been another failure that provided no useful information. Instead, our manipulations allowed us to identify effective management actions that were successfully applied to other re-introduced populations, and allowed us to identify a limiting factor that had not been previously considered. We have illustrated how other characteristics of the adaptive management approach (flexible treatments, ongoing monitoring, early model development, quantitative projections and incorporation of uncertainty) were essential to the programme.