Framework for quantifying population responses to disturbance reveals that coastal birds are highly resilient to hurricanes

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Sep 15, 2019
Christopher R. Field, Katharine J. Ruskin, Jonathan B. Cohen, Thomas P. Hodgman, Adrienne I. Kovach, Brian J. Olsen, W. Gregory Shriver, Chris S. Elphick



Changes in the frequency and severity of extreme weather may introduce new threats to species that are already under stress from gradual habitat loss and climate change. We provide a probabilistic framework that quantifies potential threats by applying concepts from ecological resilience to single populations. Our approach uses computation to compare disturbance–impacted projections to a population's normal range of variation, quantifying the full range of potential impacts. We illustrate this framework with projection models for coastal birds, which are commonly depicted as vulnerable to disturbances, especially hurricanes and oil spills. We found that populations of coastal specialists are resilient to extreme disturbances, with high resistance to the effects of short‐term reductions in vital rates and recovery within 20 years. Applying the general framework presented here across disturbance‐prone species and ecosystems would improve understanding of population resilience and generate specific projections of resilience that are needed for effective conservation planning.

Read the article in Ecology Letters.

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