Striking resilience of an island endemic bird to a severe perturbation: the case of the Gran Canaria blue chaffinch

Moreno, Á. C.  Carrascal, L. M.  Delgado, A.  Suárez, V.  Seoane, J. 

Abstract

Evidence regarding population trends of endangered species in special protection areas and their recovery ability from catastrophic disturbances is scarce. We assessed the population trend of the Gran Canaria blue chaffinch (Fringilla polatzeki), a habitat specialist endemic to the pine forest of Inagua in the Canary Islands, following a
devastating wildfire in July 2007. Using a standardized census program that accounts for detectability, we have monitored the population trend of the species since Inagua was declared a Strict Nature Reserve in 1994. The breeding population density of the blue chaffinch remained stable in Inagua from the beginning of the monitoring
program in 1994 until the year before the wildfire. However, in spring 2008, the population density decreased by half with respect to density in the preceding years. Since 2008, the population has gradually increased, reaching its highest recorded density in 2016 (15.8 birds/km2).This represents an average annual increase of 23.7 %,
indicating impressive resilience to catastrophic events. The creation of Inagua as a strict nature reserve did not therefore increase the global population or protect the blue chaffinch against a demographic crisis but probably prevented a deepening of the demographic crisis or further declines. Except for the two years immediately after
the severe wildfire of 2007, the population density of the blue chaffinch in Inagua has remained relatively stable at around 9–16 birds/km2, the lowest recorded abundance for a small woodland passerine in the Western Palearctic.

Key words

Blue chaffinch, Canary Islands, Density, Population trend, Strict nature reserve, Wildfire

Reception date: 12 V 17 | Acceptation date: 31 VII 17 | Publication date: 29 X 17

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