• Open Access

Optimal conservation planning for migratory animals: integrating demographic information across seasons


Justin Sheehy, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada. Tel: 519-824-4120; fax: 519-767-1656. E-mail: jsheehy@uoguelph.ca


Conservation strategies for migratory animals are typically based on ad-hoc or simple ranking methods and focus on a single period of the annual cycle. We use a density-dependent population model to examine one-time land purchase strategies for a migratory population with a breeding and wintering grounds. Under equal rates of habitat loss, we show that it is optimal to invest more, but never solely, in the habitat with the higher density dependence to habitat cost ratio. When there are two habitats that vary in quality within a season, the best strategy is to invest only in one habitat. Whether to purchase high- or low-quality habitat depends on the general life history of the species and the ratio of habitat quality to habitat cost. When carry-over effects are incorporated, it is almost always optimal to invest in high-quality habitat during the season that produces the carry-over effect. We apply this model to a threatened warbler population and show the optimal strategy is to purchase more breeding than wintering habitat despite the fact that breeding habitat is over ten times more expensive. Our model provides a framework for developing year-round conservation strategies for migratory animals and has important implications for long-term planning and management.