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Between-patch natal dispersal declines with increasing natal patch size and distance to other patches in the endangered Southern Dunlin Calidris alpina schinzii

Journal article
Authors Veli Matti Pakanen
Kari Koivula
Lars Åke Flodin
Antoine Grissot
Robin Hagstedt
Mikael Larsson
Angela Pauliny
Nelli Rönkä
Donald Blomqvist
Published in Ibis
Volume 159
Issue 3
Pages 611-622
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 611-622
Language en
Keywords fragmentation, functional connectivity, gene flow, philopatry, wet-grassland
Subject categories Biological Sciences


Natal dispersal has profound consequences for populations through the movement of individuals and genes. Habitat fragmentation reduces structural connectivity by decreasing patch size and increasing isolation, but understanding of how this impacts dispersal and the functional connectivity of landscapes is limited because many studies are constrained by the size of the study areas or sample sizes to accurately capture natal dispersal. We quantified natal dispersal probability and natal dispersal distances in a small migratory shorebird, the Southern Dunlin Calidris alpina schinzii, with data from two extensively monitored endangered metapopulations breeding in Sweden and Finland. In both metapopulations philopatry was strong, with individuals returning to or close to their natal patches more often than expected by chance, consistent with the patchy distribution of their breeding habitat. Dispersal probabilities were lower and dispersal distances were shorter in Sweden. These results provide a plausible explanation for the observed inbreeding and population decline of the Swedish population. The differences between Sweden and Finland were explained by patch-specific differences. Between-patch dispersal decreased with increasing natal patch size and distance to other patches. Our results suggest that reduced connectivity reduces movements of the philopatric Dunlin, making it vulnerable to the effects of inbreeding. Increasing connectivity between patches should thus be one of the main goals when planning future management. This may be facilitated by creating a network of suitably sized patches (20–100 ha), no more than 20 km apart from each other, from existing active patches that may work as stepping stones for movement, and by increasing nest success and pre-fledging survival in small patches.

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