Analysing population numbers of the house Sparrow in the netherlands with a matrix model and suggestions for conservation measures

Acta Biotheoretica 54 (3) (2006)
Abstract
The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), formerly a common bird species, has shown a rapid decline in Western Europe over recent decades. In The Netherlands, its decline is apparent from 1990 onwards. Many causes for this decline have been suggested that all decrease the vital rates, i.e. survival and reproduction, but their actual impact remains unknown. Although the House Sparrow has been dominant in The Netherlands, data on life history characteristics for this bird species are scarce: data on reproduction are non-existent, and here we first present survival estimates based on live encounters and dead recoveries of marked individuals over the period 1976–2003, 14 years before and 14 years during the decline, reported to the Dutch Ringing Centre. We show that there is an indication that both juvenile and adult survival are lower during the period of decline. Secondly, to be able to analyse the relative impact of changes in the vital rates, we formulated a general matrix model based on a range of survival values between zero and one with a step size of 0.01 (both juvenile and adult yearly survival) and a range of realistic reproduction values (one, three or five fledglings per pair per year). With the matrix model, we calculated the finite rate of population change (λ) and applied elasticity analysis. To diagnose the cause of the decline in the Dutch House Sparrow, we parameterised the model with estimates of survival values before and during the decline and present the resulting λ. With the survival estimates from the declining period, λ < 1 only if reproduction is relatively low. We discuss this result within the light of available literature data on survival in the House Sparrow. Finally, we evaluate which of the suggested causes of population decline should be reversed to mitigate the decline and how this can be achieved.
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