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Open Access Declining reproductive output in capercaillie and black grouse – 16 countries and 80 years

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Declining reproductive output in capercaillie and black grouse – 16 countries and 80 years

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For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Netherlands Journal of Zoology (Vol 18-52).

Declines in populations of capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) and black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) have been reported from both Central Europe and the continuous boreal forests of Fennoscandia. While intensified land-use is assumed to be the underlying cause of these declines, the mechanisms are not yet understood. Predation is the proximate cause of mortality of eggs, chicks and adults throughout capercaillie and black grouse ranges, but the link between predation and habitat and/or climate change remains unclear. To investigate temporal trends in reproductive output of woodland grouse, we collated previously published and unpublished data of reproduction in capercaillie and black grouse throughout their ranges from 1930 to 2012. We show that, overall, reproductive success has decreased and stabilized at low levels in most regions whilst capercaillie reproductive output in Scotland is still declining. With today’s net reproduction, capercaillie and black grouse adult survival is too low to compensate for reproduction declines. Consequently, populations are expected to further decline unless reproductive performances improve. We put our findings in the context of changes in land use, climate and generalist predator numbers. By critically reviewing how these factors limit reproductive success in capercaillie and black grouse, we hope to shed light on the underlying mechanisms causing the decline. Our results imply that measures should be undertaken to reduce mortality of capercaillie and black grouse chicks and eggs. We suggest that future studies should aim to better understand which predators limit capercaillie and black grouse populations and how predation rates are mediated by continuously changing habitat and climate.

Affiliations: 1: 1Faculty of Applied Ecology and Agricultural Sciences, Hedmark University of Applied Sciences, Koppang, Norway ; 2: 2Nord University, Steinkjer, Norway

*Corresponding author; e-mail: torfinn.jahren@hihm.no
10.1163/15707563-00002514
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Declines in populations of capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) and black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) have been reported from both Central Europe and the continuous boreal forests of Fennoscandia. While intensified land-use is assumed to be the underlying cause of these declines, the mechanisms are not yet understood. Predation is the proximate cause of mortality of eggs, chicks and adults throughout capercaillie and black grouse ranges, but the link between predation and habitat and/or climate change remains unclear. To investigate temporal trends in reproductive output of woodland grouse, we collated previously published and unpublished data of reproduction in capercaillie and black grouse throughout their ranges from 1930 to 2012. We show that, overall, reproductive success has decreased and stabilized at low levels in most regions whilst capercaillie reproductive output in Scotland is still declining. With today’s net reproduction, capercaillie and black grouse adult survival is too low to compensate for reproduction declines. Consequently, populations are expected to further decline unless reproductive performances improve. We put our findings in the context of changes in land use, climate and generalist predator numbers. By critically reviewing how these factors limit reproductive success in capercaillie and black grouse, we hope to shed light on the underlying mechanisms causing the decline. Our results imply that measures should be undertaken to reduce mortality of capercaillie and black grouse chicks and eggs. We suggest that future studies should aim to better understand which predators limit capercaillie and black grouse populations and how predation rates are mediated by continuously changing habitat and climate.

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