The importance of hunting pressure, habitat preference and life history for population trends of breeding waterbirds in Finland

Abstract

Populations of migratory species have undergone dramatic changes in recent decades, but little is known about the factors actually driving those changes. Of particular concern are quarry species such as migratory ducks (Anatidae), many of which have an unfavourable conservation status in Europe. By including both quarry and non-quarry species, as well as habitat preference and life history characteristics of the species, we investigated the relative importance of hunting pressure, both in Finland and at the European level, in explaining population changes of 16 species of migratory waterbirds in Finland during 1986–2011. Ban of lead shot in 1996 resulted in considerably lower annual hunting bags in Finland thereafter. Species which had the highest hunting pressure had the most negative slopes in population trends from 1986 up to 1997, suggesting that hunting probably limited those populations. However, in general population trends of the species were not strongly associated with hunting pressure in Finland or in Europe. Nor were basic life history characteristics (body mass and clutch size) associated with population trends of the species. In contrast, recent population declines were associated with habitat preferences of the species: those breeding mainly in eutrophic lakes had more negative population trends than those breeding in oligotrophic lakes or generalist species. Reasons for the relatively poor status of species preferring eutrophic lakes probably include over-eutrophication of nutrient-rich lakes, resulting in less abundant food resources, and increased nest depredation.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank all the hundreds of hunters and bird watchers that have participated in waterbird surveys in Finland. We also thank Pirjo Hätönen, Ritva Koivunen, Heikki Koivunen, Esa Lammi, Petri Timonen and Marcus Wikman for processing census forms and for computerizing the data and Eija Nylander for compiling the Finnish hunting bag statistics. Comments by two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the text. The Nordic Waterbirds And Climate Network (NOWAC) provided inspiring atmosphere that boosted the writing of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Hannu Pöysä.

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Pöysä, H., Rintala, J., Lehikoinen, A. et al. The importance of hunting pressure, habitat preference and life history for population trends of breeding waterbirds in Finland. Eur J Wildl Res 59, 245–256 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-012-0673-8

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Keywords

  • Body mass
  • Clutch size
  • Habitat preference
  • Hunting impact
  • Migratory species
  • Waterbirds