martes, 15 de diciembre de 2015

New publication on Lesser kestrel demography in Sicily!

Di Maggio, R., Campobello, D., Tavecchia, G. and Sará M. 2016: Habitat- and density-dependent demography of a colonial raptor in Mediterranean agro-ecosystems  Biological Conservation, vol 193 pag 116-123. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2015.11.016

Abstract: Agricultural intensification is considered the major cause of decline in farmland bird populations, especially in the Mediterranean region. Food shortage increased by the interaction between agricultural intensification and density-dependent mechanisms could influence the population dynamics of colonial birds. We used demographic data on lesser kestrels (Falco naumanni), a key species of Mediterranean pseudo-steppes, to understand the importance of land-use changes and density-dependent mechanisms in the light of its fluctuating conservation status in the Western Palearctic. Our analysis indicated an important influence of land uses (artichokes, arable and grassland fields) and colony size on kestrel survival rates.
The strong habitat effect revealed the unsuitability of intensive arable lands with respect to extensive grasslands for lesser kestrels. Notably, artichokes, a winter-intensive crop, proved to be a high-quality habitat as they were associated with survival values equal to those of grassland. This is likely due to prey availability and reveals that non-traditional crops may provide suitable habitats for lesser kestrels. Information theory gave strong support to the negative influence of colony size on fecundity, albeit a small one, for its positive effect on survival probability. The estimated population growth rate was negative for all three habitats, indicating a decline over time and urging conservation actions in all of the areas studied. This decline was much higher in colonies surrounded by arable fields. In sensitivity analyses, λ indicated that adult survival was the parameter with the greatest effect on population growth, followed by survival of fledglings and fecundity. Our study showed how the costs and benefits of group living interact with agricultural intensification to drive species demography. In addition, we integrated significant information on one of the largest lesser kestrel populations to fine tune the most effective conservation strategy to prevent the collapse of the species in a relevant part of its range

viernes, 4 de diciembre de 2015

Science Speed Dating at the IMEDEA

Students from IES Politécnic at the IMEDEA
The GEP took part in the Science Week 2015. Students from high-schools and elementary schools visited the IMEDEA to know about the scientific activities of the Institute.

Ana Payo from the GEP explained how the scientific study of birds can help their conservation.

lunes, 30 de noviembre de 2015

The 2015 Introductory Course on CMRR analysis has ended: see you next year!

The 2015 Introductory Course on CMRR analysis has ended last friday. Thanks to all participants. We had the opportunity to learn about Oryx and Wolves, Cormorants, Bears, Butterflies, Small mammals, Woodcocks, about hunting, conservations and wind farms.  It has been the opportunity to address scientific questions and, on top of all, to meet nice people.  Thank you again.

Debating about GOF and AIC, of course (apologises for the missing persons, it is the only pic I have)
See you next year, last week of November, as always.

martes, 24 de noviembre de 2015

New Publication on Leatherback turtles

Tomillo, P., Saba, V. S., Lombard, C. D., Valiulis, J. M., Robinson, N. J., Paladino, F.V., Spotila, J. R., Fernández, C., Rivas, M.L., Tucek, J., Nel, R. nd Oro, D. 2015. Global analysis of the effect of local climate on the hatchling output of leatherback turtles. Scientific Report, DOI: 10.1038/srep16789

Photo from
Summary: The most recent climate change projections show a global increase in temperatures along with precipitation changes throughout the 21st century. However, regional projections do not always match global projections and species with global distributions may exhibit varying regional susceptibility to climate change. Here we show the effect of local climatic conditions on the hatchling output of leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) at four nesting sites encompassing the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. We found a heterogeneous effect of climate. Hatchling output increased with long-term precipitation in areas with dry climatic conditions (Playa Grande, Pacific Ocean and Sandy Point, Caribbean Sea), but the effect varied in areas where precipitation was high (Pacuare, Caribbean Sea) and was not detected at the temperate site (Maputaland, Indian Ocean). High air temperature reduced hatchling output only at the area experiencing seasonal droughts (Playa Grande). Climatic projections showed a drastic increase in air temperature and a mild decrease in precipitation at all sites by 2100. The most unfavorable conditions were projected for Sandy Point where hatching success has already declined over time along with precipitation levels. The heterogeneous effect of climate may lead to local extinctions of leatherback turtles in some areas but survival in others by 2100.

viernes, 20 de noviembre de 2015

New Publication on recruitment of Scopoli's Shearwaters on early view

Sanz, A., Igual, J.-M., Genovart, M., Oro, D., and Tavecchia G. 2016.Estimating recruitment and survival in partially-monitored populations Journal Of Applied Ecology. in press. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12580

Summary: In evolutionary and ecological studies, demographic parameters are commonly derived from detailed information collected on a limited number of individuals or in a confined sector of the breeding area. This partial monitoring is expected to underestimate survival and recruitment processes because individuals marked in a monitored location may move to or recruit in an unobservable site.
We formulate a multi-event capture–recapture model using E-SURGE software which incorporates additional information on breeding dispersal and the proportion of monitored sites to obtain unbiased estimates of survival and recruitment rates. Using simulated data we assessed the biases in recruitment, survival and population growth rate when monitoring 10% to 90% of the whole population in a short and a long-lived species with low breeding dispersal. Finally, we illustrate the approach using real data from a long-term monitoring program of a colony of Scopoli's shearwaters Calonectris diomedea.
We found that demographic parameters estimated without considering the proportion of the area monitored were generally underestimated. These biases caused a substantial error in the estimated population growth rate, especially when a low proportion of breeding individuals were monitored.
The proposed capture–recapture model successfully corrected for partial monitoring and provided robust demographic estimates.
Synthesis and applications. In many cases, animal breeding populations can only be monitored partially. Consequently, recruitment and immature survival are underestimated, but the extent of these biases depends on the proportion of the area that remains undetected and the degree of breeding dispersal. We present a new method to obtain robust and unbiased measures of survival and recruitment processes from capture–recapture data. The method can be applied to any monitored population regardless of the type of nests (e.g. artificial or natural) or breeding system (e.g. colonial or territorial animals) and it only relies on an estimate of the proportion of the monitored area. The unbiased estimates obtained by this method can be used to improve the reliability of predictions of demographic population models for species’ conservation and management.

lunes, 16 de noviembre de 2015

Check the cover !

Photo F. Sergio
The image by F. Sergio  to illustrate the publication on the Journal of Applied Ecology about the effect of satellite tags on Black kite ecology has been chosen as a cover for the new issue.

Congratulations Fabrizio, nice picture !

lunes, 9 de noviembre de 2015

New Book !!!!! Edited by R. Spotila and P. Santidrián Tomillo: The Leatherback Turtle - Biology and Conservation

New book out now!! 
The leatherback Turtle, Biology and Conservation. 
 Edited by J. R. Spotila and P. Santidrián Tomillo. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Weighing as much as 2,000 pounds and reaching lengths of over seven feet, leatherback turtles are the world’s largest reptile. These unusual sea turtles have a thick, pliable shell that helps them to withstand great depths—they can swim more than one thousand meters below the surface in search of food. And what food source sustains these goliaths? Their diet consists almost exclusively of jellyfish, a meal they crisscross the oceans to find.Leatherbacks have been declining in recent decades, and some predict they will be gone by the end of this century. Why? Because of two primary factors: human redevelopment of nesting beaches and commercial fishing. There are only twenty-nine index beaches in the world where these turtles nest, and there is immense pressure to develop most of them into homes or resorts. At the same time, longline and gill net fisheries continue to overwhelm waters frequented by leatherbacks.
In The Leatherback Turtle, James R. Spotila and Pilar Santidrián Tomillo bring together the world’s leading experts to produce a volume that reveals the biology of the leatherback while putting a spotlight on the conservation problems and solutions related to the species. The book leaves us with options: embark on the conservation strategy laid out within its pages and save one of nature’s most splendid creations, or watch yet another magnificent species disappear.

James R. Spotila is the L. Drew Betz Chair Professor of Environmental Science at Drexel University and director of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. The founding president of the International Sea Turtle Society and chairman of the board of The Leatherback Trust, he is the author of Sea Turtles: A Complete Guide to Their Biology, Behavior, and Conservation and Saving Sea Turtles: Extraordinary Stories from the Battle against Extinction.  

Pilar Santidrián Tomillo is a Marie Curie Fellow at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies and the research director of The Leatherback Trust.
(have a look inside here)

martes, 20 de octubre de 2015

New publication on foraging range and colony size in seabirds

Jovani, R,; Lascells, B.; Garamszegi, L. Z.; Mavor, R.; Oro, D.Colony size and foraging range in seabirds. Oikos DOI: 10.1111/oik.02781

We tested “Ashmole’s halo” hypothesis of food depletion around colonies using a phylogenetic comparative study of 43 species of seabirds (28,262 colonies). We confirmed that foraging range imposes a ceiling on the maximum colony size of seabird species. 

Abstract:The reasons for variation in group size among animal species remain poorly understood. Using “Ashmole's halo” hypothesis of food depletion around colonies, we predict that foraging range imposes a ceiling on the maximum colony size of seabird species. We tested this with a phylogenetic comparative study of 43 species of seabirds (28,262 colonies), and investigated the interspecific correlation between colony size and foraging ranges. Foraging range showed weak relationships with the low percentiles of colony size of species, but the strength of the association increased for larger percentiles, peaking at the maximum colony sizes. To model constraints on the functional relationship between the focal traits, we applied a quantile regression based on maximum colony size. This showed that foraging range imposes a constraint to species' maximum colony sizes with a slope around 2. This second-order relationship is expected from the equation of the area of a circle. Thus, our large dataset and innovative statistical approach shows that foraging range imposes a ceiling on seabird colony sizes, providing strong support to the hypothesis that food availability is an important regulator of seabird populations.
You can read the philosophy behind “Colony size and foraging range in seabirds” in Oikos blog, by Roger Jovani

lunes, 19 de octubre de 2015

New publication on spring population dynamics of lizards

Pérez-Mellado, V., Garcia-Diez, T., Hernández-Estévez, J.A. & Tavecchia, G. : Behavioural processes, ephemeral resources and spring population dynamics of an insular lizard, Podarcis lilfordi (Squamata: Lacertidae). Italian Journal of Zoology doi: 10.1080/11250003.2015.1093035

Abstract: Temporal changes in adult sex ratio of animal populations might be due to differences in movements, survival or detection probabilities. We used data from an intensive capture–mark–recapture study of 720 lizards at the islet of Aire (Balearic Islands, Spain) to investigate the demographic mechanisms underlying the spring uneven sex ratio. We simultaneously estimated survival (f), the proportion of transient animals (p) and the probability of recapture (p) of lizards at the study plot.
Photo: G. Tavecchia
We then estimated population size using open population models for individually based data and compared these with the observed values. Results indicated that males had a higher probability of recapture than females, but this was not sufficient to generate the observed male-biased sex ratio. The proportion of transient males decreased at the end of spring in parallel with the end of the blooming period of the dead horse arum, Helicodiceros muscivorus, a short-lasting food and thermoregulation resource for lizards during spring. Changes in the proportion of transients suggested that sex-dependent movements, most likely linked to a monopolising behaviour of this plant resource, were responsible for the observed difference in the number of males and females. Our results reveal how the interplay of behavioural and ecological factors explains short-term changes in population dynamics and shapes the movement patterns within the island.

viernes, 9 de octubre de 2015

Lizard October Campaign just started !!

The October campaign on capture-recapture of lizards just started with two new important discoveries:

1 - The "Imperial Sardines pincho"(c), a slice of bread with sardines on fresh tomatoe sauce, chopped garlic, parsley and Soy sauce. Freshly made and freshly served ! 

2-  The proof of elephant dwarfism on islands (we were not able to find any giant rat, though)

(...and as usual, we came back with quite a lot of rubbish washed on the island).

lunes, 28 de septiembre de 2015

Congress: XVIII Italian Ornithological Congress

The GEP at the XVIII Italian Ornithological Congress at Caramanico Terme (PE) with a contribution on "Elements of bird populaiton management".
You can see the programm and download the congress abstracts here

Some pictures of the event here

martes, 22 de septiembre de 2015

New publication on the survival of Burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) !

Rebolo-Ifrán, N.,  Carrete, M., Sanz-Aguilar, A., Rodríguez-Martínez, S., Cabezas, S., Marchant, T., Bortolottu, G. and Tella, J. L. (2015). Links between fear of humans, stress and survival support a non-random distribution of birds among urban and rural hábitats. Scientific Reports 5:13723.  DOI: 10.1038/srep13723

Photo: Natalia Rebolo
Abstract:Urban endocrine ecology aims to understand how organisms cope with new sources of stress and maintain allostatic load to thrive in an increasingly urbanized world. Recent research efforts have yielded controversial results based on short-term measures of stress, without exploring its fitness effects. We measured feather corticosterone (CORTf, reflecting the duration and amplitude of glucocorticoid secretion over several weeks) and subsequent annual survival in urban and rural burrowing owls. This species shows high individual consistency in fear of humans (i.e., flight initiation distance, FID), allowing us to hypothesize that individuals distribute among habitats according to their tolerance to human disturbance. FIDs were shorter in urban than in rural birds, but CORTf levels did not differ, nor were correlated to FIDs. Survival was twice as high in urban as in rural birds and links with CORTf varied between habitats: while a quadratic relationship supports stabilizing selection in urban birds, high predation rates may have masked CORTf-survival relationship in rural ones. These results evidence that urban life does not constitute an additional source of stress for urban individuals, as shown by their near identical CORTf values compared with rural conspecifics supporting the non-random distribution of individuals among habitats according to their behavioural phenotypes.

miércoles, 9 de septiembre de 2015

Nikola Matovic Master defense on streaming, now!

Nikola Matovic will defend his Master work on Storm petrel demographic parameters for the European Master Marine Environment and Resources today (09/09/2015). If you are interested you can follow his defense on streaming here

miércoles, 12 de agosto de 2015

New Publication on the effect of tagging birds

Sergio, F., Tavecchia, G., Taferna, A., López Jimenez, L. Blas, J., De Stephanis, R. Marchant, T. A., Kumar, N. and Hiraldo, F. 2015 No effect of satellite tagging on survival, recruitment, longevity, productivity and social dominance of a raptor, and the provisioning and condition of its offspring. J. App. Ecol. Accepted.

1.The deployment of electronic devices on animals is rapidly expanding and producing leapfrog advances in ecological knowledge. Even though their effects on the ecology and behaviour of the marked subjects are potentially important, less than 10% of the studies are accompanied by an evaluation of impact, and comprehensive, long-term assessments have been few. Therefore, there is an urgent need to test for impacts, especially for tags that are heavy and deployed for long time periods, such as satellite transmitters.
Photo: F. Sergio
2.We marked 110 individuals of a medium-sized, migratory raptor, the black kite Milvus migrans, with GPS satellite tags, representing about 4% of the body mass and attached as backpacks through a Teflon harness. Tagged individuals were compared to control animals of similar sex, age and breeding status for a large number of behavioural, condition-related and ecological traits.
3.Despite a sample size 2–3-fold greater than most previous assessments that reported significant impacts, there was no detectable difference between tagged and control individuals in key vital rates such as survival probability, longevity, recruitment, age of first breeding, reproductive performance and timing of breeding.
4.Tagged and untagged kites showed similar social dominance during fights over food and a similar capability to provision nestlings, which prevented carry-over effects on the stress levels and condition of their offspring.
5.Synthesis and applications. Radio-marking studies are growing exponentially in the current “movement ecology era” and impact assessments will be ever more important. In principle, tags of up to 4% mass-load can be deployed without apparent harm on some avian soaring species, but impacts should be properly evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Resilient species for which impacts seem weak could be used as early warning systems for trials of new devices: if impacts are observed, they are likely to be even greater on more vulnerable species. Finally, individual fatalities caused by marking should be taken into serious account, but comprehensively evaluated in the light of broader population-level impacts. Future initiatives to minimize tagging impacts could include more stringent licensing criteria enforcing attendance at training courses or incorporation of impact evaluations into study designs, increased availability of training courses for tagging, and enhanced sharing of information through blogs, workshops or specialized journal sections.

martes, 28 de julio de 2015

News : keeping seabirds off the hook

Lasers can rescue seabirds
Foto: J.M. Arcos

The newspaper "El Pais" published on the use of laser light to reduce seabird bycatch in Galicia.  See here (in Spanish)

lunes, 20 de julio de 2015

New publication on Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins - Kenya

Pérez-Jorge, S., Pereira, T., Corne, C., Wijtten, Z., Omar, M.,  Katello, J., Kinyua, M., Oro, D., amd Louzao, M. 2015.Can Static Habitat Protection Encompass Critical Areas for Highly Mobile Marine Top Predators? Insights from Coastal East Africa PloSOne DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0133265

Abstract: Along the East African coast, marine top predators are facing an increasing number of anthropogenic threats which requires the implementation of effective and urgent conservation measures to protect essential habitats. Understanding the role that habitat features play on the marine top predator’ distribution and abundance is a crucial step to evaluate the suitability of an existing Marine Protected Area (MPA), originally designated for the protection of coral reefs. We developed species distribution models (SDM) on the IUCN data deficient Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) in southern Kenya. We followed a comprehensive ecological modelling approach to study the environmental factors influencing the occurrence and abundance of dolphins while developing SDMs. Through the combination of ensemble prediction maps, we defined recurrent, occasional and unfavourable habitats for the species. Our results showed the influence of dynamic and static predictors on the dolphins’ spatial ecology: dolphins may select shallow areas (5-30 m), close to the reefs (< 500 m) and oceanic fronts (< 10 km) and adjacent to the 100m isobath (< 5 km).We also predicted a significantly higher occurrence and abundance of dolphins within the MPA. Recurrent and occasional habitats were identified on large percentages on the existing MPA (47% and 57% using presence-absence and abundance models respectively). However, the MPA does not adequately encompass all occasional and recurrent areas and within this context, we propose to extend the MPA to incorporate all of them which are likely key habitats for the highly mobile species. The results from this study provide two key conservation and management tools: (i) an integrative habitat modelling approach to predict key marine habitats, and (ii) the first study evaluating the effectiveness of an existing MPA for marine mammals in the Western Indian Ocean.

lunes, 13 de julio de 2015

martes, 7 de julio de 2015

New Publication on Scopoli's Shearwater!

Hernandez, N., Genovart, M., Igual, J.-M. and Oro, D., 2015 The influence of environmental conditions on the age pattern in breeding performance in a transequatorial migratory seabird. Forntiers in Ecology and Evolution.

 Abstract: Several studies of marine top predators, above all of seabirds, have analyzed the effects of either individual age or environmental fluctuations on reproduction; nevertheless, little is known about the age patterns in breeding performance in a variable environment.
Photo: Pedro Trejo (c)
To investigate the simultaneous influence of age and environmental conditions on laying dates and egg volumes, we tested different climate and food availability indices in a transequatorial migratory seabird using female data from a 23-year study. Our results show an improvement in breeding parameters with age (i.e., earlier laying dates and greater egg volumes) but no pattern of senescence in older age groups. The best models showed an interaction of time and age in breeding performance, i.e., the age pattern of breeding performance changed each year likely as a result of environmental variability.
Nevertheless, climatic indexes used here explained part of that annual variability: NAO and SOI index accounted for 24 and 20% of deviances in laying dates and egg volume, respectively. Part of that unexplained variability might be related to other processes such as intermittent breeding and the individual quality of breeders, which were not assessed in our study.

martes, 30 de junio de 2015


Alejandro Martinez-Abrain speaks of the New Paradigm of Conservation Biology at "Balears fa Ciència", here (at min.15)

jueves, 25 de junio de 2015


The publication by Sergio et al. (2014) has been awarded as the best publication of year 2014 of the Estacion Biologica de Doñana (CSIC) in the action framework of the Severo Ochoa (category : senior scientist). 

Congratulations, Fabrizio!

martes, 16 de junio de 2015


Sergi Pérez Jorge from the GEP presented the study “Integrative assessment of human dimension on the conservation of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin in Kenya” at the DEVOTES-EUROMARINE Summer School in Donostia-San Sebastian.

The course explored the potential and recent advances in the integrative assessment of marine systems (based upon strong new monitoring tools, such as genomics), including the various ecosystem components (from plankton to marine mammals), at different scales (from water bodies to regional seas), and in management applications (e.g. to the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the Water Framework Directive (WFD)).

lunes, 8 de junio de 2015


UPCOMING WORKSHOP : 21-26 November 2016 !!!!!

23-27 November 2015, Mallorca, SPAIN

The course aims to introduce students, researchers and environmental managers to the theory and practical aspects of the analysis of capture-mark-recapture and –recovery data to estimate survival, recruitment and dispersal probabilities. The course is based on theoretical classes as well as practical sessions with real and simulated data.

Dead line for registration: 24 September 2015 
Places: 20

martes, 2 de junio de 2015

New publication : a new term in evolutionary biology and paleontology

Martinez-Abrain, A. 2015 Stoch-aptation: a new term in evolutionary biology and paleontology. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution. doi:10.4033/iee.2015.8.6.n

Following two seminal papers published in the journal Paleobiology by Stephen Jay Gould and Elisabeth Vrba several decades ago, I suggest a new term (stoch-aptation) to refer to those individual traits or sets of traits that provide, just by chance, fitness adventages to species when faced with catastrophes (i.e. geological events triggering massive mortality), and that may lead to the origin of taxonomical entities above the species level.
Photo from

I provide as an example of stoch-aptations the set of features that helped mammals pass the Cretaceous-Paleogene transition, as well as traits behind the success of living fossils. However, the identification of specific stoch-aptations can be difficult. This missing term is necessary and useful to (a) consolidate the idea of selection at different hierarchical levels, (b) acknowledge the role of chance in the evolution of higher taxonomical categories and (c) think of the role of geological catastrophes as generators of innovation.

jueves, 28 de mayo de 2015

New publication on Raptors on Islands

Sanz-Aguilar A, de Pablo F, Donázar JA. Age-dependent survival of island vs. mainland populations of two avianscavengers: delving into migration costs. Oecologia, in press (doi:10.1007/s00442-015-3355-x) 

Abstract: Large terrestrial long-lived birds (including raptors) are typically sedentary on islands, even when they are migratory on the mainland. Density-dependent variation in the age at first breeding has been described as responsible for the long-term persistence of long-lived bird populations on islands. However, sedentary island populations may also benefit from higher survival rates derived from the absence of migration costs, especially for young individuals. Thus, sedentary island populations can mimic a natural experiment to study migration costs. 
Photo: Felix de Pablo

We estimated the age-dependent survival of two sedentary raptors on Menorca Island (Egyptian vultures Neophron percnopterus and red kites Milvus milvus) and compared these estimates with those reported for other migratory and sedentary populations. In Menorca, Egyptian vultures, but not red kites, showed low levels of human-related mortality resulting in extremely high survival probabilities, probably due to different diet choices and behavioral patterns. Juvenile Egyptian vultures and red kites in the studied population had lower survival probabilities than adults. This difference, however, was smaller than those reported for mainland migrant populations, which showed a lower juvenile survival rate. In fact, between-population comparisons suggested that survival of the young in migrant populations may be triggered by mortality factors in wintering areas. In contrast, adult survival may respond to mortality factors in breeding areas. Our results suggest that raptor species that become sedentary on islands may benefit from higher pre-breeder survival prospects in comparison with their mainland migrant counterparts. This fact, in combination with an earlier age at first reproduction, may facilitate their persistence.

martes, 26 de mayo de 2015

Highlight in Nature Climate Change Journal

Our paper on how sex in reptiles is temperature-dependant (TSD) and how climate change may affect species persistence has been highlighted in Nature Climate Change.

Scopoli's Shearwater campaign

Photo: P. Arcos

The annual campaign on the ecology of  the Scopoli's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea has started with the first breeding pairs at the colony. We will assess laying date, breeding success and collect individual data on presence-absence of marked birds. The hard work will end in September, when the newborns will leave for their first trans-equatorial migration. Check the publications by the GEP to learn more on this incredible bird here .