Importance of Long-Term Studies to Conservation Practice: The Case of the Bearded Vulture in the Pyrenees
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Detailed, long-term scientific studies are necessary for conservation purposes, but with the main handicap to have the continual economic support required for them. Behavioural and conservation biology studies need long-term projects to achieve robust data, but managers, administrations and policy-makers need, in most cases, immediate results. Here I show several examples of the research obtained from a long-term study (1987–2014) in one of the most threatened species in Pyrenean mountains, the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), highlighting the importance of such long-term research. The results show how long-term studies are necessary to identify conservation problems, to understand demographic changes on populations and priorities to apply conservation measures. The study’s findings allowed the identification of the negative density-dependent effects on fecundity, the lack of recolonization of new territories outside the current distribution area and the increase in polyandrous trios, suggesting an initial optimal habitat saturation. From a management point of view, the studies show that supplementary feeding sites (SFS) can have detrimental effects on fecundity but increases pre-adult survival. Also, illegal poisoning is increasing, and the demographic simulations suggest a regressive scenario in population dynamics if this factor is not eliminated. More recently, anthropogenic activities through human health regulations that affect habitat quality can suddenly modify demographic parameters. The results obtained about changes in nest-site selection, mating system and demographic parameters can only be achieved through long-term studies, suggesting the importance of long-term research to provide accurate information to managers and policy-makers to optimise the application of conservation measures.