Dunlin subspecies exhibit regional segregation and high site fidelity along the East Asian–Australasian Flyway

Authors: Benjamin J. Lagassé, Richard B. Lanctot, Mark Barter, Stephen Brown, Chung-Yu Chiang, Chi-Yeung Choi, Yuri N. Gerasimov, Steve Kendall, Joseph R. Liebezeit, Konstantin S. Maslovsky, Alexander I. Matsyna, Ekaterina L. Matsyna, David C. Payer, Sarah T. Saalfeld, Yoshimitsu Shigeta, Ivan M. Tiunov, Pavel S. Tomkovich, Olga P. Valchuk, and Michael B. Wunder

Year: 2020

Publication: The Condor

Publication Link: https://academic.oup.com/condor/article-abstract/122/4/duaa054/5909834?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Keywords: Calidris alpina, flyway conservation, migration ecology, migratory connectivity

Abstract:

The degree to which individuals migrate among particular breeding, migration, and wintering sites can have important implications for prioritizing conservation efforts. Four subspecies of Dunlin (Calidris alpina) migrate along the East Asian−Australasian Flyway. Each subspecies has a distinct and well-defined breeding range, but their migration and winter ranges are poorly defined or unknown. We assessed the migratory connectivity of 3 of these subspecies by evaluating a dataset that encompasses 57 yr (1960–2017), and comprises more than 28,000 Dunlin banding records and 818 observations (71 recaptures and 747 band resightings). We present some of the first evidence that subspecific segregation likely occurs, with arcticola Dunlin wintering in areas of Japan, and other arcticola, actites, and sakhalina Dunlin wintering in areas of the Yellow and China seas. Observations indicate that whether an arcticola Dunlin winters in Japan or the Yellow and China seas is independent of their breeding location, sex, or age. Furthermore, observations indicate that ≥83% of arcticola Dunlin exhibit interannual site fidelity to specific wintering sites. This suggests that the degradation of specific wetland areas may negatively affect particular individuals of a particular subspecies (or combination of subspecies), and, if widespread, could result in population declines. Given the possible biases inherent in analyzing band recovery data, we recommend additional flyway-wide collaboration and the use of lightweight tracking devices and
morphological and genetic assignment techniques to better quantify subspecies’ migratory movements and nonbreeding distributions. This information, when combined, will enable effective conservation efforts for this species across the East Asian−Australasian Flyway.

Lay Summary:

• The East Asian−Australasian Flyway has more threatened and near-threatened migratory waterbird species than any other flyway in the world; however, developing flyway conservation plans has been challenging, in part due to limited information regarding population-specific migration patterns.
• Four subspecies of Dunlin migrate and winter along the East Asian−Australasian Flyway. Each has a well-defined breeding range; their migration and winter ranges are poorly defined or unknown.
• We assessed the migratory connectivity of 3 subspecies using data from 57 yr (1960–2017), which comprises more than 28,000 Dunlin banding records, 71 recaptures, and 747 band resightings.
• Subspecific segregation likely occurs, with arcticola Dunlin wintering in Japan, and other arcticola, actites, and sakhalina Dunlin wintering in the Yellow and China seas. It is likely that ≥83% of arcticola Dunlin exhibit interannual site fidelity to specific wintering sites.
• Our findings suggest that degradation of specific wetland areas may negatively affect particular individuals of a particular subspecies (or combination of subspecies) and could result in population declines.

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