The metapopulation viability analysis package, VORTEX, was used to examine viability and recovery objectives for piping plovers Charadrius melodus, an endangered shorebird that breeds in three distinct regions of North America. Baseline models indicate that while Atlantic Coast populations, under current management practices, are at little risk of near-term extinction, Great Plains and Great Lakes populations require 36% higher mean fecundity for a significant probability of persisting for the next 100 years. Metapopulation structure (i.e. the delineation of populations within the metapopulation) and interpopulation dispersal rates had varying effects on model results; however, spatially-structured metapopulations exhibited lower viability than that reported for single-population models. The models were most sensitive to variation in survivorship; hence, additional mortality data will improve their accuracy. With this information, such models become useful tools in identifying successful management objectives; and sensitivity analyses, even in the absence of some data, may indicate which options are likely to be most effective. Metapopulation viability models are best suited for developing conservation strategies for achieving recovery objectives based on maintaining an externally derived, target population size and structure.
Additional publication details
Viability of piping plover Charadrius melodus metapopulations