Using integrated population models to prioritize region-specific conservation strategies under global change

Qing Zhao, Todd W. Arnold, James H. Devries, David W. Howerter, Robert G. Clark, Mitch D Weegman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Accounting for the spatial variation of environmental drivers and demographic mechanisms in population predictions is essential for conservation prioritization under climate and land use changes but is often ignored. We developed an integrated population model (IPM) with region-specific population processes and used the model to prioritize region-specific conservation strategies for northern pintail (Anas acuta; hereafter pintail). Pintail are of high conservation concern in North America due to low productivity related to extensive use of cropland for nesting and wetland (pond) loss related to anthropogenic disturbance and climatic variability. We analyzed 25 years (1990–2014) of pintail breeding population survey, band-recovery, pond count, climate and land use data to estimate regional demography-environment relationships. We then predicted regional population responses under potential future changes in climate, wetland drainage, and agricultural intensification. Our IPM predicted that pintail populations will be sensitive to climate changes throughout the entire study area. Drainage was predicted to have more deleterious impacts in Parkland regions due to more extensive wetland drainage in these regions. Agricultural intensification was predicted to have more deleterious impacts in Saskatchewan-Prairie due to a stronger response of pintail productivity to agricultural intensification in this region. Our study highlights the importance of considering region-specific conservation strategies to accommodate regional variation in future global changes and demographic response to such changes. Our IPM that accommodates spatial variation in environmental changes and demographic responses is flexible for other systems, and thus is highly relevant to diverse studies in conservation prioritization given global change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108832
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the many people who have contributed to the waterfowl population survey and band-recovery survey. David Koons, Guillaume Péron, and three anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments on the manuscript. This research was jointly funded by Ducks Unlimited Canada's Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the North American Wetlands Conservation Council. We thank our respective employers for their support of this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Agricultural land use
  • Climate change
  • Conservation prioritization
  • Demography
  • Integrative modeling
  • Wetland


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