Pre-emptive action as a measure for conserving nomadic species

Date: 26, Mar, 2019
Author(s):   Dejan Stojanovic, Henry C. L. Cook, Chloe Sato, Fernanda Alves, Grant Harris, Andrew McKernan, Laura Rayner, Matthew H. Webb, William J. Sutherland, Robert Heinsohn
Publisher: Wildlife Management

Nomadic species are globally threatened by anthropogenic habitat change, but management options to address their decline are limited. Their unpredictable settlement patterns pose major challenges for conservation because identifying where to implement action is difficult. We address this challenge by pre‐empting settlement patterns in a nomadic species using data from a long‐term study of the critically endangered, cavity‐nesting swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) and by taking action at the sites identified. We detected flower bud growth (the primary settlement cue) and deployed artificial nests at 3 predicted breeding sites before the birds arrived. At the broad breeding‐range scale, swift parrots settled wherever bud abundance was highest, including the study area. Within the study area, artificial nest occupancy was greatest at the site with abundant historical natural nesting sites. At the local scale, we found significant effects of study site and distance to forest edges on nest box occupancy by swift parrots. Despite significant differences in thermal properties between artificial and natural nests, we found no differences in clutch size, brood size, or body condition of swift parrots in each. Monitoring settlement patterns and future food availability of nomadic wildlife can empower conservation managers to make predictions about breeding and target ecologically relevant times and locations when deploying conservation resources. Our study is an example of how conservation challenges posed by nomadic species can be overcome, and demonstrates that with effective monitoring, practical action can be targeted to address acute conservation needs and augment habitat availability.