Population modelling of European shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) at their southern limit: conservation implications

Velando, A. and Freire, J., 2002. Population modelling of European shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) at their southern limit: conservation implications. Biological Conservation, 107(1), pp.59-69.


The European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) population at Cíes Islands (the most important breeding area in its southern limit) increased rapidly from 1986 to 1992, and afterwards the population suffered a slight decline. This study analyzed population data obtained from ringing recoveries and reproductive monitoring between 1993 and 1997. The reproductive success was highly variable and associated with adverse weather events. Adult survival rate was very low compared with other colonies, probably due to high accidental capture in gill-nets. In recent years, the fishing effort with gill-nets increased in the study area. Sensitivity analysis of parameters showed that the population is more affected by changes in adult survival than in reproductive success. When dynamic simulations were run with an increase in shag mortality of 5% above the present level, population extinction occurred in all simulations. In contrast, when a reduction of mortality of 5% was introduced in the simulations, the population increased in all cases. The main lines of action to study and protect this population should be: (1) ringing schemes to obtain better estimates of survival variability; (2) studies on the interaction of feeding areas and fishing vessels; (3) regulations on gill-netting; and (4) the incorporation of population models as an adaptive management tool to synthesize assessment work and management scenarios.

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