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PLoS One. 2015 Jul 14;10(7):e0130954. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130954. eCollection 2015.

Reproductive Performance of a Declining Forest Passerine in Relation to Environmental and Social Factors: Implications for Species Conservation.

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Swiss Ornithological Institute, Sempach, Switzerland; Division of Conservation Biology, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
Division of Conservation Biology, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
Schweizer Vogelschutz SVS/BirdLife Schweiz, Zürich, Switzerland.
Swiss Ornithological Institute, Sempach, Switzerland.


Identifying factors influencing a species' ecological niche and demography is a prerequisite for species conservation. However, our understanding of the interplay between demographic rates and biotic/abiotic factors is still poor for most species of conservation concern. We evaluated relevance of eight hypotheses relating to timing of breeding, temporal nest exposure, nest concealment, topography, tree structure, predation risk and disturbance, density dependence and weather for explaining variation in reproductive performance of the declining wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix in northern Switzerland. Reproductive performance was monitored with cameras at 136 nests from 2010 to 2012 and was associated to temporal exposure, timing of breeding and concealment of nests. Daily nest survival was positively related to the number of grass and sedge tussocks, nest concealment and nest age. Clutch size and number of fledglings decreased, the later in the season a nest was initiated. Nest survival over an average nesting period of 31 days was 46.9 ± 0.07% (mean ± SE), daily nest survival rate was 0.976 ± 0.002. As for many ground-breeding birds, nest predation was the principal cause of nest failure, accounting for 79% of all nest losses. Conservation measures should aim at increasing the area of relatively homogenous forest stands featuring suitable habitats characterized by abundant and accessible grass and sedge tussocks. In managed forests, such conditions can be found in stands of middle age (i.e. pole wood) with little to no shrub layer.

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