The global biogeography and environmental drivers of fairy circles

Fairy circles (FCs) are intriguing regular vegetation patterns that have only been described in Namibia and Australia so far. We conducted a global and systematic assessment of FC-like vegetation patterns and discovered hundreds of FC-like locations on three continents. We also characterized the range of environmental conditions that determine their presence, which is restricted to narrow and specific soil and climatic conditions. Areas showing FC-like vegetation patterns also had more stable productivity over time than surrounding areas having non-FC patterns. Our study provides insights into the ecology and biogeography of these fascinating vegetation patterns and the first atlas of their global distribution.

Species Distribution Models predict abundance and its temporal variation in a steppe bird population.

Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) derived from Species Distribution Model (SDM) has been used to infer or predict local demographic properties such as abundance for many species. Across species studied, HSI has either been presented as a poor predictor of abundance or as a predictor of potential rather than realized abundance. The main explanation of the lack of relationship between HSI and abundance is that the local abundance of a species varies in time due to various ecological processes that are not integrated into correlative SDM. To better understand the HSI-abundance relationship, in addition to the study of the association between HSI and mean abundance, we explored its variation over time. We used data from 10-years monitoring of a Houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata undulata) population in Morocco. From various occurrence data we modelled the HSI. From (independent) count data we calculated four local abundance indices: mean abundance, maximum abundance, the temporal trend of abundance and the coefficient of variation of abundance over the study period. We explored the relationship between HSI and abundance indices using linear, polynomial and quantile regressions. We found a triangular relationship between local abundance (mean and maximum) and HSI, indicating that the upper limit of mean and maximum abundance increased with HSI. Our results also indicate that sites with the highest HSI were associated with least variation in local abundance, the highest variation being observed at intermediate HSI. Our results provide new empirical evidence supporting the generalization of the triangular relationship between HSI and abundance. Overall, our results support the hypothesis that HSI obtained from SDMs can reflect the local abundance potentialities of a species and emphasize the importance of investigating this relationship using temporal variation in abundance.

Density-dependence of reproductive success in a Houbara bustard population.

Although density-dependent processes and their impacts on population dynamics are key issues in ecology and conservation biology, empirical evidence of density-dependence remains scarce for species or populations with low densities, scattered distributions, and especially for managed populations where densities may vary as a result of extrinsic factors (such as harvesting or releases). Here, we explore the presence of density-dependent processes in a reinforced population of North African Houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata undulata). We investigated the relationship between reproductive success and local density, and the possible variation of this relationship according to habitat suitability using three independent datasets. Based on eight years of nests monitoring (more than 7000 nests), we modeled the Daily Nest Survival Rate (DNSR) as a proxy of reproductive success. Our results indicate that DNSR was negatively impacted by local densities and that this relationship was approximately constant in space and time: (1) although DNSR strongly decreased over the breeding season, the negative relationship between DNSR and density remained constant over the breeding season; (2) this density-dependent relationship did not vary with the quality of the habitat associated with the nest location. Previous studies have shown that the demographic parameters and population dynamics of the reinforced North African Houbara bustard are strongly influenced by extrinsic environmental and management parameters. Our study further indicates the existence of density-dependent regulation in a low-density, managed population.