The persistence of wildlife populations is under threat as a consequence of human activities, which are degrading natural ecosystems. Commercial forestry is the greatest threat to biodiversity in boreal forests. Forestry practices have degraded most available habitat, threatening the persistence of natural populations. Understanding population responses is, therefore, critical for their conservation. Population viability analyses are effective tools to predict population persistence under forestry management. However, quantifying the mechanisms driving population responses is complex as population dynamics vary temporally and spatially. Metapopulation dynamics are governed by local dynamics and spatial factors, potentially mediating the impacts of forestry e.g., through dispersal. Here, we performed a seasonal, spatially explicit population viability analysis, using long-term data from a group-living territorial bird (Siberian jay, Perisoreus infaustus). We quantified the effects of forest management on metapopulation dynamics, via forest type-specific demography and spatially explicit dispersal, and how forestry impacted the stability of metapopulation dynamics. Forestry reduced metapopulation growth and stability, through negative effects on reproduction and survival. Territories in higher quality natural forest contributed more to metapopulation dynamics than managed forests, largely through demographic processes rather than dispersal. Metapopulation dynamics in managed forest were also less resilient to disturbances and consequently, may be more vulnerable to environmental change. Seasonal differences in source-sink dynamics observed in managed forest, but not natural forests, were caused by associated seasonal differences in dispersal. As shown here, capturing seasonal source-sink dynamics allows us to predict population persistence under human disturbance and to provide targeted conservation recommendations.


  • Wildlife populations are facing a plethora of threats as a consequence of human activities, which are altering and degrading natural ecosystems (Tilman et al 2017)

  • Source-sink dynamics varied between forest types, and seasonally, resulting in spatiotemporal variation in the distribution of critical sites for metapopulation dynamics

  • When population dynamics were analysed separately for each forest, local population growth rates were stable in natural forest, but declining (λ < 1) in managed forest (Table 3)

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Wildlife populations are facing a plethora of threats as a consequence of human activities, which are altering and degrading natural ecosystems (Tilman et al 2017). Commercial forestry alters forest composition, reduces habitat quality (i.e., habitat degradation), and increases forest fragmentation (Imbeau et al 2001), with potentially severe impacts on the persistence of natural populations (Noble and Dirzo 1997). Pulliam (1988) and others (Howe et al 1991; Dias 1996) used the ‘source-sink’ concept to quantify the demographic consequences of varying habitat quality.


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