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Title: Intraspecific variation in environmental and geographic space use : insights from individual movement data
Author: Bonnet-Lebrun, Anne-Sophie
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 002X
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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Species’ ranges arise from the interplay between environmental preferences, biotic and abiotic environmental conditions, and accessibility. Understanding of – and predictive models on – species distributions often build from the assumption that these factors apply homogenously within each species, but there is growing evidence for individual variation. Here, I use movement data to investigate individual-level decisions and compromises regarding the different costs and benefits influencing individuals’ geographic locations, and the species-level spatial patterns that emerge from these. I first developed a new method that uses tracking data to quantify individual specialisation in geographic space (site fidelity) or in environmental space (environmental specialisation). Applying it to two species of albatrosses, I found evidence of site fidelity but weak environmental specialisation. My results have implications for how limited research efforts are best-targeted: if animals are generalists, effort are best spent by understanding in depth individual patterns, i.e., better to track fewer individuals for long periods of time; whereas if animals tend to be specialists, efforts should be dedicated to tracking as many individuals as possible, even if for shorter periods. I then investigated individual migratory strategies and their drivers in nine North American bird species, using ringing/recovery data. I found latitudinal redistribution of individuals within the breeding and non-breeding ranges that generally did not follow textbook patterns (‘chain migration’ or ‘leapfrog migration’). Migratory individuals tend to trade off the benefits of migration (better tracking of climatic niche; better access to resources) and its costs (increasing with migratory distance). I found that birds are more likely to remain as residents in areas with warmer winter temperatures, higher summer resource surpluses and higher human population densities (presumably because of a buffering effect of urban areas). Overall, my results highlight the importance of considering individual variation to understanding the ecological processes underpinning species’ spatial patterns.
Supervisor: Manica, Andrea ; Rodrigues, Ana Sofia Luis Sponsor: St John's College Benefactors ; Cambridge Philosophical Society
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: migration ; birds ; individual variability ; foraging strategies ; space use ; individual specialisation ; site fidelity ; residency ; migration patterns ; tracking data ; ringing data ; movement ; ecology