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Modeling The Ecological Trap Hypothesis: A Habitat and Demographic Analysis for Migrant Songbirds

Therese M. Donovan and Frank R. Thompson III
Ecological Applications
Vol. 11, No. 3 (Jun., 2001), pp. 871-882
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/3061122
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3061122
Page Count: 12
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Modeling The Ecological Trap Hypothesis: A Habitat and Demographic Analysis for Migrant Songbirds
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Abstract

Most species occupy both high- and low-quality habitats throughout their ranges. As habitats become modified through anthropogenic change, low-quality habitat may become a more dominant component of the landscape for some species. To conserve species, information on how to assess habitat quality and guidelines for maintaining or eliminating low-quality habitats are needed. We developed a source-sink population model that depicted the annual cycle of a generalized migratory songbird to address these questions. We determined how demographic factors, landscape composition (the percentage of high- and low-quality habitat), and habitat selection interacted to promote population persistence or extirpation. Demographic parameters, including adult and juvenile survival, nesting success (probability of a nest successfully fledging one or more young), number of nesting attempts, and number of young fledged per nest, interacted to affect population growth. In general, population growth was more sensitive to adult and juvenile survival than to fecundity. Nevertheless, within typically observed survival values, nest success was important in determining whether the population increased, decreased, or was stable. Moreover, the number of nest attempts by females and the number of young fledged per nesting attempt influenced population stability. This highlights the need to obtain more complete demo-graphic data on species than simple nest success to assess habitat quality. When individuals selected high- and low-quality habitats in proportion to habitat availability, populations persisted as long as low-quality habitat did not make up >40% of the landscapes. However, when individuals preferred low-quality habitats over high-quality habitats, populations were extirpated in landscapes with >30% low-quality habitat because low-quality habitat functioned as an ecological trap, displacing individuals from high-quality to low-quality habitat. For long-term conservation, we emphasize the need for basic information on habitat selection and life-history characteristics of species throughout their range.

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