Long-term decline in nest survival of a ground-nesting shorebird on a tropical island

Noemie Engel, Grant C. McDonald, Brett K Sandercock, Romy Rice, Rocío Moreno, Sara S. Ratão, Tamas Szekely

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1 Citation (SciVal)


Tropical islands harbour a disproportionally high number of endemic species, which face increasing threats due to habitat loss, disturbance and introduced alien predators. Long-term demographic studies are needed to understand how such threats may impact on population productivity. We report an investigation of a key demographic parameter, nest survival, over a 13-year period in a small ground-nesting shorebird on the island of Maio (Cabo Verde). Similar to many tropical islands, Maio is expected to face increased tourism, disturbance, and potential loss of nesting habitats. We monitored over 700 nests of the largest, year-round resident breeding population of Kentish plover in the Atlantic Ocean archipelago. Our work produced three important findings. First, we show that nest survival differed among the major habitats of the main breeding site, the Salinas do Porto Inglês, because nests in the salt-extraction area had higher daily survival rates DSR = 0.9654 ± 0.0076 SE than nests in grasslands DSR = 0.9557 ± 0.0038 SE. The salt-extraction is a dynamic habitat that is naturally regulated by rainfall and sea water inflow and managed with traditional methods for salt-extraction. Kentish plovers breed on small islets surrounded by salty water where mammalian predators may have restricted access. Second, we found that breeding densities of plovers decreased from 0.11 nests/ha to 0.03 nests/ha over 13 years. Last, we show that nest survival declined from 0.9784 ± 0.0107 in 2007 to 0.8967 ± 0.0401 in 2019. We suggest that the declining breeding density and nest survival may be driven by a combination of ecological factors including predation by native and introduced species, and by increased human disturbance. To help maintain sustainable levels of nest survival and to ensure long-term persistence of this Kentish plover population, we propose to incorporate traditional Salinas management into direct conservation actions, to reduce human disturbance and manage nest predators to help nest survival on tropical islands.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02522
JournalGlobal Ecology and Conservation
Early online date24 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

NE was funded by Luxemburg National Research Fund [grant number 13530957], and RR by Evolution Education Trust [grant number EH-BB1311]. Funding for fieldwork was provided by Maio Biodiversity Foundation and by the National Research, Development, and Innovation Office of Hungary to TS [ÉLVONAL KKP-126949]. TS was also funded by The Royal Society [Wolfson Merit Award WM170050, APEX APX\R1\191045]. GCM was supported by a National Research, Development and Innovation Office, Hungary Fellowship (FK 134741). BKS was supported by funding to the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research from the Research Council of Norway (Project No. 160022/F40).


  • Breeding success
  • Demography
  • Disturbance
  • Macaronesia
  • Nest predation
  • Nest survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology


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