PhD Estación Biológica de Doñana

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Jesús Hernández-Pliego

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My name is Jesús Hernández-Pliego and I am a PhD student at Wetland Ecology Department, under the supervision of Drs. Javier Bustamante and Carlos Rodríguez. The title of my thesis is “Habitat uses of the lesser kestrel from the perspective of the Movement Ecology: using GPS-dataloggers to analyze the foraging temporal patterns in agriculture lands”.

Every organism, both unicellular and more complex pluricellular ones, moves. This movement is not random in the landscape where it takes place, exposed to several biotic and abiotic interactions with spatial and temporal fluctuations. This phenomenon not only determines the fate at individual level, but also establishes the structure and dynamics of population, community, ecosystem; even the evolution and diversity of life. In recent years, a revolution in movement studies has ocurred: a paradigm that provides them with a framework. This new discipline, or Movement Ecology (Nathan et al., 2008, PNAS), has as its principal aim the study of the factors that influence the movement: 1) the internal state that makes the individual moves according to his needs; 2) the motion capacity, which refers to the biomechanical properties that allow the individual movement; 3) the navigation abilities that account for the capacity to obtain information from the environment and how the individual processes and uses it to select where and when to move; 4) and the external factors that affect the individual and his movement (e.g., the weather). Therefore, the individual’s movement can be explain as the result of the differential interactions among these components.

I am interested in finding out the spatio-temporal patterns of the lesser kestrel’s foraging movement and its relation with the agriculture land dynamics from an individual approach, using GPS-dataloggers to track individuals from different breeding colonies located in Southern Spain. Thus, I am trying to answer questions about the four basic pillars of the Movement Ecology.

    • The foraging habitat selection: Does it vary throughout the breeding season due to the increasing energetic demand (mate and chicks feeding)? Is this selection constant among the individuals or there is any inter-individual variation? Does the individual’s sex or age show some effect on habitat uses?
    • The diferential efficiency index: the time invested in the prey capture determines the number of preys an individual can take to its brood daily so, can the inter-individual differences in prey capture efficiency explain the clutch size or the chick’s condition when fledge? Does the foraging habitat or the prey size affect this index?
    • The effect of external agents: How is the flying behaviour in relation to the wind? Does the precipitation have any effect on bird’s movements? How does the harvesting activity modify the foraging habitat selection?
    • The fluctuation in the behaviour of females throughout the breeding season: Why do they stop flying just before the first egg is laid? Does the increase in body mass to cope with the incubation suppose a strong energetic constraint to fly?
    • A comparative analysis of the previous objectives between colonies situated within different landscape configurations: agricultural vs. urban ecosystems (the main scenarios where the colonies are found in Spain). Thus, I hope to obtain remarkable and useful conclusions to develop habitat-specific efficient management strategies to preserve this endangered species.



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