What to expect from alternative management strategies to conserve seabirds? Hints from a dynamic modelling framework applied to an endangered population
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The worldwide decline of seabird populations due to the combined effects of global and regional changes is creating immense challenges for managers and conservationists. Predicting population responses to proposed management strategies could provide the most effective tools to prevent, halt and reverse ongoing declines. System dynamic modelling frameworks are considered particularly relevant to interrelate biological, ecological and environmental characteristics and to predict population trends. A system dynamics model was designed, compiling diverse information concerning a relict population of the European Shag located in western Iberia, to outline the most effective management options for its conservation. The simulations demonstrate that mortality caused by invasive animals and bycatch mortality were the main reasons for the current population decline. Without management interventions, a decrease of 8% was projected for the next decade, which could be mitigated by specific conservation actions. The results show the usefulness of dynamic modelling frameworks to understand local cause-effect relationships and species responses to ecosystem management under changing environmental conditions. We highlight that the framework proposed, after specific parameterization, could be easily adaptable to other species within similar socio-ecological systems.