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Habitat selection in a reintroduced population: social effects differ between natal and post-release dispersal

Published in: Animal Conservation


Date published: February 2016


Authors: Kate M. Richardson1,2 and John G. Ewen2


  1. Wildlife Ecology Group, Te Kura Mātauranga o ngā Taonga ā Papatuanuku, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
  2. Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4RY, UK



Understanding the factors driving dispersal behaviour and habitat selection in reintroduced populations can be critical to reintroduction success. Social factors in particular can influence habitat selection, for example through conspecific attraction, and this can have both positive and negative effects on reintroduction success, particularly where multiple releases occur. In addition, little is known about how habitat selection differs between natal and post-release dispersal within species. Often it is assumed that information from a species’ natal dispersal preferences and patterns can act as a guide for predicting post-release dispersal behaviour, but no studies to date have examined this. We examine the factors influencing habitat selection during both natal and post-release dispersal in a reintroduced hihi (stitchbird, Notiomystis cincta) population using species distribution models. We demonstrate a strong social effect in habitat selection of natal dispersers bred at the release area (largely the offspring of founders), yet find no social effect in habitat selection of juveniles translocated 2 years after the first releases occurred. In addition, we establish that environmental variables are important in habitat selection in both groups. We suggest (1) that consideration of social effects and conspecific attraction should play a role in planning reintroduction release strategies, especially if reinforcement releases are considered necessary, and (2) that it may not always be appropriate to assume post-release dispersal in reintroduced populations will be driven by the same factors that influence natal dispersal.


Paper details available here:

Written by Dr Kate Richardson

My involvement with hihi research and the recovery group began in 2007, when I started a MSc project focused on one of the first mainland reintroduction attempts for hihi, in Auckland's Waitakere Ranges. Carrying out the post-release monitoring subsequent to this translocation highlighted the important role dispersal can play in reintroduction success. Subsequently my PhD research investigated the phenotypic and environmental factors driving dispersal and habitat selection in reintroduced populations, using the Maungatautari Ecological Island hihi population as a case study. I have also worked in biodiversity management roles at the Department of Conservation and in community conservation, and am currently in a postdoctoral role with San Diego Zoo Global, working on the Hawaii Endangered Bird Programme.

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