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Effectiveness of protected areas for osprey survival at intercontinental scale


Protected areas are the cornerstones of biodiversity conservation. Evaluating the effectiveness of PAs for protecting peculiar habitats and sensitive species is of paramount importance to ultimately assess their long-term effects on biological communities. We evaluated the importance of the PAs network at intercontinental scale, across Europe and Africa, for the conservation of the endangered Mediterranean osprey Pandion haliaetus populations (< 100 breeding pairs). We used GPS-GSM transmitters to track the movements of 49 individuals belonging to three different populations, estimated their home range size and modelled the spatio-temporal variability in their use of PAs during the non-breeding period. Ospreys made use of a greater number of PAs in Europe than in Africa. Juveniles had home ranges 2.6 times larger than adults. Overlap between home ranges and PAs was 3 times greater for adults (62.7 ± 24.8%) than for juveniles (20.9 ± 21.2%), especially in Europe (> 1.62 than in Africa). Time spent outside PAs was twice as long for juveniles than adults. Mean distance from PAs was 16.3 times larger for juveniles compared to adults, especially when in Africa. Fourteen birds (82.35% of ascertained mortality events) died outside PAs. Osprey survival probability increased with proportional time/space spent into the PAs, and this effect was stronger for juveniles. By spending less time in and using less space of PAs, juveniles are potentially more exposed to threats and, hence, to a higher risk of mortality. More stringent binding measures and the establishment of well-enforced PAs, along with coordinated cross-border conservation strategies beyond PAs, are necessary to ensure the future survival of the osprey, as for protecting wintering waterbird populations at an international scale.

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All GPS data analysed can be consulted in the Movebank repository at under the project study “Osprey in Mediterranean (Corsica, Italy, Balearics)”.

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This research was financially supported by the Tuscan Archipelago National Park (Italy). It also benefits from the support of the Maremma Regional Park (Italy), the Parc Naturel Régional de Corse (France), and the Consejería deMedio Ambiente y Territorio (Govern Illes Balears—Spain). For their help in fieldwork activities we are also thankful to: Rafel Triay Bagur from Minorca and Antoni Muñoz Navarro from the Grup Balear d'Ornitologia i Defensa de la Naturalesa (GOB) of Mallorca in Spain, Jean Marie Dominici from Corsica in France, and Guido Alari, Francesco Pezzo, Vincenzo Rizzo Pinna and Alessandro Troisi from “Progetto Falco pescatore” in Italy. We are also grateful to Marco Galaverni, the scientific director of WWF Oasis Italy, and the staff of the protected areas of WWF Orbetello Lagoon, WWF Orti-Bottagone Nature Reserve as well as of the Diaccia Botrona Nature Reserve, in Italy. We also thank Louis Phipps and another anonymous referee for their helpful comments on the manuscript. Edward Cutler greatly helped us with English editing and improvement.


This research was financially supported by the Tuscan Archipelago National Park (Italy).

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FM (corresponding author), GS and AS conceived the idea and designed the study. FM (corresponding author), AS, GS, FM and OD collected and contributed data. OD run survival analysis. FM (corresponding author) and FM analysed data and wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the manuscript and gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to Flavio Monti.

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The authors declare they have no financial or non-financial conflict of interest to disclose.

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Communicated by Sharif A. Mukul.

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Montillo, F., Sforzi, A., Sammuri, G. et al. Effectiveness of protected areas for osprey survival at intercontinental scale. Biodivers Conserv 31, 1379–1405 (2022).

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  • Africa
  • Compositional analysis
  • Conservation
  • Europe
  • Human Footprint Index
  • Mediterranean
  • Natura 2000
  • Non-breeding season
  • Osprey
  • Protected areas
  • Raptors
  • Survival analysis