Public Library of Science
School of Natural Sciences
This study was supported by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Division of Fish and Wildlife through State Wildlife and Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Remote tropical oceanic islands are of high conservation priority, and they are exemplified by range-restricted species with small global populations. Spatial and temporal patterns in rainfall and plant productivity may be important in driving dynamics of these species. Yet, little is known about environmental influences on population dynamics for most islands and species. Here we leveraged avian capture-recapture, rainfall, and remote-sensed habitat data (enhanced vegetation index [EVI]) to assess relationships between rainfall, vegetation greenness, and demographic rates (productivity, adult apparent survival) of three native bird species on Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands: rufous fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons), bridled white-eye (Zosterops conspicillatus), and golden white-eye (Cleptornis marchei). Rainfall was positively related to vegetation greenness at all but the highest rainfall levels. Temporal variation in greenness affected the productivity of each bird species in unique ways. Predicted productivity of rufous fantail was highest when dry and wet season greenness values were high relative to site-specific 5-year seasonal mean values (i.e., relative greenness); while the white-eye species had highest predicted productivity when relative greenness contrasted between wet and dry seasons. Survival of rufous fantail and bridled white eye was positively related to relative dry-season greenness and negatively related to relative wet-season greenness. Bridled white-eye survival also showed evidence of a positive response to overall greenness. Our results highlight the potentially important role of rainfall regimes in affecting population dynamics of species on oceanic tropical islands. Understanding linkages between rainfall, vegetation, and animal population dynamics will be critical for developing effective conservation strategies in this and other regions where the seasonal timing, extent, and variability of rainfall is expected to change in the coming decades.
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