European population trends and current conservation status of an endangered steppe-bird species: the Dupont’s lark Chersophilus duponti
López Iborra, Germán
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Background: Steppe-birds face drastic population declines throughout Europe. The Dupont’s lark Chersophilus duponti is an endangered steppe-bird species whose European distribution is restricted to Spain. This scarce passerine bird could be considered an ‘umbrella species’, since its population trends may reveal the conservation status of shrub-steppes. However, trends for the Spanish, and thus European, population of Dupont’s lark are unknown. In this work, we evaluated Dupont’s lark population trends in Europe employing the most recent and largest compiled database to date (92 populations over 12 years). In addition, we assessed the species threat category according to current applicable criteria (approved in March 2017) in the Spanish catalogue of threatened species (SCTS), which have never been applied to the Dupont’s lark nor to any other Spanish species. Finally, we compared the resulting threat categories with the current conservation status at European, national and regional levels. Methods: We fitted switching linear trend models (software TRIM—Trends and Indices for Monitoring data) to evaluate population trends at national and regional scale (i.e. per Autonomous Community) during the period 2004–2015. In addition, the average finite annual rate of change (λ¯) obtained from the TRIM analysis was employed to estimate the percentage of population size change in a 10-year period. A threat category was assigned following A1 and A2 criteria applicable in the SCTS. Results: Trends showed an overall 3.9% annual decline rate for the Spanish population (moderate decline, following TRIM). Regional analyses showed high inter-regional variability. We forecasted a 32.8% average decline over the next 10 years. According to these results, the species should be listed as ‘Vulnerable’ at a national scale (SCTS). At the regional level, the conservation status of the species is of particular concern in Andalusia and Castile-Leon, where the species qualifies for listing as ‘Endangered’. Discussion: Our results highlight the concerning conservation status of the European Dupont’s lark population, undergoing a 3.9% annual decline rate. Under this scenario, the implementation of a wide-ranging conservation plan is urgently needed and is vital to ensuring the conservation of this steppe-bird species. The role of administrations in matters of nature protection and the cataloguing of endangered species is crucial to reverse declining population trends of this and other endangered taxa.