Publications

A network approach to prioritize conservation efforts for migratory birds

Xu, Yanjie; Si, Yali; Takekawa, John; Liu, Qiang; Prins, Herbert H.T.; Yin, Shenglai; Prosser, Diann J.; Gong, Peng; Boer, Willem F. de

Summary

Habitat loss can trigger migration network collapse by isolating migratory bird breeding grounds from nonbreeding grounds. Theoretically, habitat loss can have vastly different impacts depending on the site's importance within the migratory corridor. However, migration-network connectivity and the impacts of site loss are not completely understood. We used GPS tracking data on 4 bird species in the Asian flyways to construct migration networks and proposed a framework for assessing network connectivity for migratory species. We used a node-removal process to identify stopover sites with the highest impact on connectivity. In general, migration networks with fewer stopover sites were more vulnerable to habitat loss. Node removal in order from the highest to lowest degree of habitat loss yielded an increase of network resistance similar to random removal. In contrast, resistance increased more rapidly when removing nodes in order from the highest to lowest betweenness value (quantified by the number of shortest paths passing through the specific node). We quantified the risk of migration network collapse and identified crucial sites by first selecting sites with large contributions to network connectivity and then identifying which of those sites were likely to be removed from the network (i.e., sites with habitat loss). Among these crucial sites, 42% were not designated as protected areas. Setting priorities for site protection should account for a site's position in the migration network, rather than only site-specific characteristics. Our framework for assessing migration-network connectivity enables site prioritization for conservation of migratory species.