Multi-population analysis reveals spatial consistency in drivers of population dynamics of a declining migratory bird

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Chloé Rebecca Nater, Malcolm D. Burgess, Peter Coffey, Bob Harris, Frank Lander, David Price, Mike Reed, Rob Robinson


Many migratory species are in decline across their geographical ranges. Single-population studies can provide important insights into drivers at a local scale, but effective conservation requires multi-population perspectives. This is challenging because relevant data are often hard to consolidate, and state-of-the-art analytical tools are typically tailored to specific datasets.
We capitalized on a recent data harmonization initiative (SPI-Birds) and linked it to a generalized modeling framework to identify the demographic and environmental drivers of large-scale population decline in migratory pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) breeding across Britain.
We implemented a generalized integrated population model (IPM) to estimate age-specific vital rates, including their dependency on environmental conditions, and total and breeding population size of pied flycatchers using long-term (34-64 years) monitoring data from seven locations representative of the British breeding range. We then quantified the relative contributions of different vital rates and population structure to changes in short- and long-term population growth rate using transient life table response experiments (LTREs).
Substantial covariation in population sizes across breeding locations suggested that change was the result of large-scale drivers. This was supported by LTRE analyses, which attributed past changes in short-term population growth rates and long-term population trends primarily to variation in annual survival and dispersal dynamics, which largely act during migration and/or non-breeding season. Contributions of variation in local reproductive parameters were small in comparison, despite sensitivity to local temperature and rainfall within the breeding period.
We show that both short- and longer-term population changes of British-breeding pied flycatchers are likely linked to factors acting during migration and in non-breeding areas, where future research should be prioritized. We illustrate the potential of multi-population analyses for informing management at (inter)national scales and highlight the importance of data standardization, generalized and accessible analytical tools, and reproducible workflows to achieve them.



Biodiversity, Biology, Biostatistics, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Longitudinal Data Analysis and Time Series, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Population Biology, Research Methods in Life Sciences, Statistical Methodology, Statistical Models, Statistics and Probability, Survival Analysis, Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


annual survival, comparative analysis, environmental effects, full annual cycle, integrated population model, LTRE, multi-population, pied flycatcher


Published: 2022-04-21 13:13


CC-By Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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Data and Code Availability Statement:
Data will be published via Zenodo soon.