Exploring the effect of drought extent and interval on the Florida snail kite: interplay between spatial and temporal scales

W.M. Mooij, R.E. Bennetts, W.M. Kitchens, D.L. DeAngelis

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


The paper aims at exploring the viability of the Florida snail kite population under various drought regimes in its wetland habitat. The population dynamics of snail kites are strongly linked with the hydrology of the system due to the dependence of this bird species on one exclusive prey species, the apple snail, which is negatively affected by a drying out of habitat. Based on empirical evidence, it has been hypothesised that the viability of the snail kite population critically depends not only on the time interval between droughts, but also on the spatial extent of these droughts. A system wide drought is likely to result in reduced reproduction and increased mortality, whereas the birds can respond to local droughts by moving to sites where conditions are still favourable. This paper explores the implications of this hypothesis by means of a spatially-explicit individual-based model. The specific aim of the model is to study in a factorial design the dynamics of the kite population in relation to two scale parameters, the temporal interval between droughts and the spatial correlation between droughts. In the model high drought frequencies led to reduced numbers of kites. Also, habitat degradation due to prolonged periods of inundation led to lower predicted numbers of kites. Another main result was that when the spatial correlation between droughts was low, the model showed little variability in the predicted numbers of kites. But when droughts occurred mostly on a system wide level, environmental stochasticity strongly increased the stochasticity in kite numbers and in the worst case the viability of the kite population was seriously threatened. [KEYWORDS: Conservation; Everglades; Rostrhamus sociabilis; Spatially explicit individual based model; Habitat quality; Hydrology; Inundation; Succession]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-39
JournalEcological Modelling
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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