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Keywords:

  • pink-footed goose;
  • Anser brachyrhynchus;
  • migration;
  • dynamic programming;
  • economic costs;
  • flyway management;
  • nature conservation

Summary

  • 1
    We adopt a ‘whole flyway’ approach to modelling scenarios for protecting migratory birds, aiming at efficient and cost-effective conservation of flyway habitat.
  • 2
    We developed a model to minimize flyway management costs while safeguarding a migrating bird population. The model assumes that the intensity of the birds’ use of sites can be manipulated by varying management regimes (with concomitant costs) and that the birds make optimal use of the conditions created along their flyway.
  • 3
    We used dynamic programming to find the sequence of migratory decisions that maximizes the fitness of the migrants given a range of management scenarios, followed by a management cost estimate of all these scenarios and selection of those scenarios yielding an optimal solution from both an economic and the migrants’ perspective.
  • 4
    Using the population of pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus that breed in Svalbard as an example, we calculated that the cheapest management scenario given current compensation payment rates at the various goose stopover sites yielded a 35% cost saving over current management. This cheapest scenario provides a migration itinerary that is very similar to the current itinerary used by the geese. This is fortuitous since changing environmental conditions may put the migrants at risk.
  • 5
    Synthesis and application. Given the global threats to migratory birds, developing a framework for efficient and effective conservation of flyway habitat is an urgent need. Such a framework may likewise be used to assist in controlling migrants causing conflict with agriculture, such as several goose species, in an economic and responsible fashion. Our suggested exemplified framework identified large unexplainable differences in management costs between regions. Differences in management costs between staging sites for birds make big differences to the optimal management of a flyway. Hence, to achieve efficient and effective management of migratory birds, we firstly need an objective assessment of the cost of management in different locations, followed by a modelling approach as here advocated, and followed up by a collaborative action of managers along the entire flyway.