Viability and Management of an Endangered Capercaillie ( Tetrao urogallus ) Metapopulation in the Jura Mountains, Western Switzerland

Sachot, Sébastien ; Perrin, Nicolas ; Neet, Cornelis

In: Biodiversity & Conservation, 2006, vol. 15, no. 6, p. 2017-2032

Add to personal list
    The populations of Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), the largest European grouse, have seriously declined during the last century over most of their distribution in western and central Europe. In the Jura mountains, the relict population is now isolated and critically endangered (about 500 breeding adults). We developed a simulation software (TetrasPool) that accounts for age and spatial structure as well as stochastic processes, to perform a viability analysis and explore management scenarios for this population, capitalizing on a 24years-long series of field data. Simulations predict a marked decline and a significant extinction risk over the next century, largely due to environmental and demographic stochasticity (average values of life-history parameters would otherwise allow stability). Variances among scenarios mainly stem from uncertainties about the shape and intensity of density dependence. Uncertainty analyses suggest to focus conservation efforts on enhancing, not only adult survival (as often advocated for long-lived species), but also recruitment. The juvenile stage matters when local populations undergo extinctions, because it ensures connectivity and recolonization. Besides limiting human perturbations, a silvicultural strategy aimed at opening forest structure should improve the quality and surface of available patches, independent of their size and localization. Such measures are to be taken urgently, if the population is to be saved