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Keywords:

  • Calidris canutus rufa;
  • Limulus polyphemus;
  • population modeling;
  • structured decision making;
  • two species model;
  • two sex model

Abstract Adaptive management requires that predictive models be explicit and transparent to improve decisions by comparing management actions, directing further research and monitoring, and facilitating learning. The rufa subspecies of red knots (Calidris canutus rufa), which has recently exhibited steep population declines, relies on horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) eggs as their primary food source during stopover in Delaware Bay during spring migration. We present a model with two different parameterizations for use in the adaptive management of horseshoe crab harvests in the Delaware Bay that links red knot mass gain, annual survival, and fecundity to horseshoe crab dynamics. The models reflect prevailing hypotheses regarding ecological links between these two species. When reported crab harvest from 1998 to 2008 was applied, projections corresponded to the observed red knot population abundances depending on strengths of the demographic relationship between these species. We compared different simulated horseshoe crab harvest strategies to evaluate whether, given this model, horseshoe crab harvest management can affect red knot conservation and found that restricting harvest can benefit red knot populations. Our model is the first to explicitly and quantitatively link these two species and will be used within an adaptive management framework to manage the Delaware Bay system and learn more about the specific nature of the linkage between the two species.