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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

A stable-isotope approach to delineate geographical catchment areas of avian migration monitoring stations in North America.

Migration monitoring stations (MMSs) were established to provide information on population trends of North American passerines. However, apart from inferring general origins of birds, there has been no way to delineate geographical catchment areas sampled by MMSs. The ability to resolve MMS catchment areas would greatly enhance our ability to link and constrain population declines to specific geographical areas and thereby focus conservation efforts. Here, we utilize stable-hydrogen (delta D) and carbon (delta 13C) isotope values of rectrices of fall hatch-year (HY) and spring adult after-second year (ASY) Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) moving through two MMSs in Canada to determine natal and molting catchment areas for those stations. Stable-carbon isotope signatures provided no information on geographical origins of birds. Conversely, delta D signatures provided good latitudinal geographical control, and this was also supported by analysis of feathers from two other species, Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus) and Harris' Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula), also known to breed and molt in northern regions. The delta D values of fall HY birds moving through Delta Marsh MMSs in Manitoba were more negative than those moving through Long Point MMSs in southern Ontario, clearly indicating more northwesterly origins. However, based on delta D values alone, both MMSs sampled birds from broad catchment regions of the Canadian Boreal forest. The interpolated catchment area of the Delta MMS encompassed northwest Manitoba to northwestern Alberta. The interpolated catchment area of the Long Point MMS extended from north central Ontario and Quebec and into western Canada. The delta D values of birds moving northward in spring suggested that most ASY Swainson's Thrush molted at more southerly locations than their breeding sites. We show the stable-hydrogen isotope approach may be employed to significantly improve conventional observational techniques for avian population monitoring, and that MMSs provide a reliable means of associating population productivity with regional conservation issues.[1]


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