Effect of conservation efforts and ecological variables on waterbird population sizes in wetlands of the Yangtze River
Forage quality and availability, climatic factors, and a wetland’s conservation status are expected to affect the densities of wetland birds. However, the conservation effectiveness is often poorly studied. Here, using twelve years’ census data collected from 78 wetlands in the Yangtze River floodplain, we aimed to understand the effect of these variables on five Anatidae species, and evaluate the effectiveness of the conservation measures by comparing population trends of these species among wetlands that differ in conservations status. We showed that the slope angle of a wetland and the variation thereof best explain the differences in densities of four species. We also found that the population abundances of the Anatidae species generally declined in wetlands along the Yangtze River floodplain over time, with a steeper decline in wetlands with a lower protection status, indicating that current conservation policies might deliver benefits for wintering Anatidae species in China, as population sizes of the species were buffered to some extent against decline in numbers in wetlands with a higher level protection status. We recommend several protection measures to stop the decline of these Anatidae species in wetlands along the Yangtze River floodplain, which are of great importance for the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.