Combined effects of climate, predation, and density dependence on Greater and Lesser Scaup population dynamics
An understanding of species relationships is critical in the management and conservation of populations facing climate change, yet few studies address how climate alters species interactions and other population drivers. We use a long-term, broad-scale data set of relative abundance to examine the influence of climate, predators, and density dependence on the population dynamics of declining scaup ( Aythya ) species within the core of their breeding range. The state-space modeling approach we use applies to a wide range of wildlife species, especially populations monitored over broad spatiotemporal extents. Using this approach, we found that immediate snow cover extent in the preceding winter and spring had the strongest effects, with increases in mean snow cover extent having a positive effect on the local surveyed abundance of scaup. The direct effects of mesopredator abundance on scaup population dynamics were weaker, but the results still indicated a potential interactive process between climate and food web dynamics (mesopredators, alternative prey, and scaup). By considering climate variables and other potential effects on population dynamics, and using a rigorous estimation framework, we provide insight into complex ecological processes for guiding conservation and policy actions aimed at mitigating and reversing the decline of scaup.