, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 1205-1214
Date: 11 May 2011

Low effective population size and survivorship in a grassland grouse

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Assessments of census size (N c) and effective population size (N e) are necessary for the conservation of species exhibiting population declines. We examined two populations (Oklahoma and New Mexico) of the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), a declining lek-breeding bird, in which one population (Oklahoma) has larger clutch size and more nesting attempts per year but lower survival caused by human changes to the landscape. We estimated demographic and genetic estimates of N e for each population and found that both populations have low N e estimates with a risk of inbreeding depression. Although Oklahoma females produce a larger number of offspring, the proportion of females successfully reproducing is not higher than in New Mexico. Higher reproductive effort has likely reached a physiological limit in Oklahoma prairie-chickens but has not led to a higher N e or even a larger N c than New Mexico. We propose that future conservation efforts focus on maximizing survivorship and decreasing the variance in reproductive success because these factors are more likely than increasing reproductive output alone to yield population persistence in lek-breeding species.