Schaub, M., H. Jakober & W. Stauber (2013)

Strong contribution of immigration to local population regulation: evidence from a migratory passerine.

Further information

Ecology 94 (8): 1828–1838



A mechanistic understanding of the dynamics of populations requires knowledge about the variation of the underlying demographic rates and about the reasons for their variability. In geographically open populations, immigration is often necessary to prevent declines, but little is known about whether immigration can contribute to its regulation. We studied the dynamics of a Red-backed Shrike population (Lanius collurio) over 36 years in Germany with a Bayesian integrated population model. We estimated mean and temporal variability of population sizes, productivity, apparent survival, and immigration. We assessed how strongly the demographic rates were correlated with population growth to understand the demographic reasons of population change and how strongly the demographic rates were correlated with population size to identify possible density-dependent mechanisms. The shrike population varied between 35 and 74 breeding pairs but did not show a significant trend in population size over time (growth rate 1.002 ± 0.001 [mean 6 SD]). Apparent survival of females (juveniles 0.06 ± 0.01; adults 0.37 ± 0.03) was lower than that of males (juveniles 0.10 ± 0.01; adults 0.44 ± 0.02). Immigration rates were substantial and higher in females (0.56 ± 0.02) than in males (0.43 ± 0.02), and average productivity was 2.76 ± 0.14. Without immigration, the Red-backed Shrike population would have declined strongly. Immigration was the strongest driver for the number of females while local recruitment was the most important driver for the number of males. Immigration of both sexes and productivity, but not local recruitment and survival, were subject to density dependence. Density-dependent productivity was not effectively regulating the local population but may have contributed to regulate shrike populations at larger spatial scales. These findings suggest that immigration is not only an important component to prevent a geographically open population from decline, but that it can also contribute to its regulation.
Keywords: density dependence; integrated population model; JAGS; Lanius collurio; population dynamics; Red-backed Shrike