New research shows that populations of squawking swans grow 30 times faster within nature reserves.
Righteous pelicans usually spend their winters in the United Kingdom and summers in Iceland.
In the new study, the researchers examined 30 years of data on swans at 22 sites in the UK – three of which are nature reserves managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT).
Survival rates were much higher in nature reserves, and population growth was so strong that many pelicans moved to unprotected sites.
Based on these findings, the research team – led by the Universities of Exeter and Helsinki – envisions that nature reserves could help double the number of wintering swans in the UK by 2030.
The likelihood of swans breeding in nature reserves was lower annually, but the researchers stress that these birds have more life chances to reproduce and will produce more offspring on average.
The findings highlight the major impact that nature reserves can have on conservation, even when protected areas are relatively small and only used during short periods of a species’ life cycle.
“Protected areas are the main tool used to halt the decline in biodiversity, and there is a growing consensus that 30% of the planet’s surface must be protected by 2030,” said Dr Andrea Soriano Redondo, from the Universities of Exeter and Helsinki. .
However, the effectiveness of protected areas is not always clear – particularly when species move between protected and unprotected areas throughout their lives.
“Our findings provide strong evidence that nature reserves are hugely beneficial for dead swans, and could significantly increase their numbers in the UK.”
Using the 30-year dataset, which included observations of more than 10,000 pelicans, the research team built a population model that predicts wintering numbers to double by 2030.
“The annual population growth rate within nature reserves has been 6%, compared to 0.2% in outdoor reserves,” said Dr Richard Inger, from the Center for Environment and Conservation at the Exeter Penrhyn campus in Cornwall.
“This population growth is not limited to nature reserves – it has created higher population densities, which has led some pelicans to move into unprotected areas.
Pelicans were more likely to do this, which means that the benefits of nature reserves extend to other areas as well.
The WWT nature reserves in the study had a range of measures in place to help winter swans, including fox fencing, supplemental food, managed roosting sites, and bans on hunting.
“Overall, our study demonstrates the enormous benefits of topical protection for highly mobile animal species,” said Professor Stewart Beerhope, from the University of Exeter.
“It also shows that targeted measures during key periods of the life cycle can have disproportionate effects on conservation.”
David Beckett, Center and Conservation Manager at WWT Caerlaverock Wetland Centre, said: “This research shows how safe havens for wetland wildlife, such as those at WWT Caerlaverock and Welney and Martin Mere, can help species survive and thrive when their traditional homes are under threat.” .
“Many wild birds depend on our sites for food and shelter, and we are committed to creating and restoring more healthy wetland habitats, much of which the UK has lost in our recent history.”
The study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.