A habitat-based population model for the Great Lakes population of the piping plover (Charadrius melodus)

Lauren C. Wemmer, Uygar Özesmi, Francesca J. Cuthbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


We created a stochastic habitat-based population model to compare the relative effectiveness of potential conservation strategies to increase the endangered Great Lakes population of piping plovers. Initial model parameters were based on an extensive 14-year dataset obtained by annual studies of breeding pairs in Michigan and 6 years of observations of color-marked individuals. Cumulative persistence probability curves and population trends were compared for scenarios with all possible combinations of the following: (1) empirical, medium and high site specific probabilities of reproductive success and (2) empirical, medium and high numbers of available breeding territories. Sites were also categorized according to land ownership to determine if long-term preservation of publicly owned lands is sufficient for population recovery under any of the scenarios. Only scenarios in which both reproduction and habitat availability were high and all ownership classes were included resulted in a model population that persisted for 100 years and was likely to reach the US Fish and Wildlife Service current population recovery goal (100 breeding pairs) for Michigan. The model was most sensitive to survival rates of adults and more sensitive to changes in reproductive parameters than to number of breeding sites or territories. Model results suggest that intensive measures to increase productivity alone are not sufficient for population recovery; increases in nesting densities or total number of available territories are also likely necessary. Given uncertainties about nesting densities possible at specific breeding sites, preservation of presently unoccupied habitat throughout the Great Lakes region and management of this habitat to encourage breeding by plovers are recommended. Use of techniques to augment the breeding population in conjunction with protection of habitat and reproduction may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-181
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Collection of field data used in the model was permitted and partially funded by Region 3 of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Endangered Species Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Lansing, MI. Additional funds were provided by the Francis M. Peacock Scholarship for Native Bird Habitat (administered by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology), the American Ornithologists' Union, University of Michigan Biological Station, and the Dayton-Wilkie Natural History Fund (Bell Museum of Natural History). We thank A. Doolittle, S. Feirer and J. Hathaway Stucker for assistance with plover banding and the many people who contributed to field efforts by monitoring plovers or reporting sightings of banded birds. W. P. Cunningham graciously donated his computer for running simulations of the model. We thank R. Akçakaya, C. Neuhauser, and two anonymous reviewers for commenting on an earlier draft of the manuscript.

Copyright 2007 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Charadrius melodus
  • Great Lakes population
  • Piping plover
  • Population viability analysis
  • Spatial habitat model


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