The influence of climatic variation and density on the survival of an insular passerine Zosterops lateralis.
Sandvig EM., Coulson T., Kikkawa J., Clegg SM.
Understanding the influence of environmental factors on population dynamics is fundamental to many areas in biology. Survival is a key factor of population biology, as it is thought to be the predominant driver of growth in long-lived passerines, which can be influenced by both biotic and abiotic environmental conditions. We used mark-recapture methods and generalized linear mixed models to test the influence of density and climatic variation, measured at a regional and local scale (Southern Oscillation Index [SOI] and rainfall, respectively), on seasonal variation in survival rates of an insular population of Silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis chlorocephalus), during a 15-year study period, off the east coast of Australia. We found overall high survival rates for adults and juveniles (81% and 59%, respectively). Local scale climate (i.e. rainfall) and density were the principal environmental factors influencing their survival, both with a negative relationship. A significant interactive effect of density and rainfall influenced survival as they both increased. However, survival remained low when density was at it highest, independent of the amount of rainfall. Nestling survival was negatively influenced by rainfall and density, positively by SOI, and chicks that hatched later in the breeding season had higher survival rates. The regional scale climate variable (i.e. SOI) did not explain survival rates as strongly as rainfall in any age class. Our results contribute to the understanding of insular avian population dynamics and the differential effects of environmental factors across age classes. Climatic predictions expect El Niño events to increase, meaning dryer conditions in eastern Australia, potentially increasing Silvereye survival across age classes. However, the long-term effect of lower rainfall on food availability is unknown; consequently, the outcome of lower rainfall on Silvereye survival rates is uncertain.