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Using an individual-based model to select among alternative foraging strategies of woodpigeons: data support a memory-based model with a flocking mechanism

Kułakowska, K. A., Kułakowski, T. M., Inglis, I. R., Smith, G. C., Haynes, P. J., Prosser, P., Thorbek, P. and Sibly, R. M. ORCID: (2014) Using an individual-based model to select among alternative foraging strategies of woodpigeons: data support a memory-based model with a flocking mechanism. Ecological Modelling, 280. pp. 89-101. ISSN 03043800

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2013.09.019


Population modelling is increasingly recognised as a useful tool for pesticide risk assessment. For vertebrates that may ingest pesticides with their food, such as woodpigeon (Columba palumbus), population models that simulate foraging behaviour explicitly can help predicting both exposure and population-level impact. Optimal foraging theory is often assumed to explain the individual-level decisions driving distributions of individuals in the field, but it may not adequately predict spatial and temporal characteristics of woodpigeon foraging because of the woodpigeons’ excellent memory, ability to fly long distances, and distinctive flocking behaviour. Here we present an individual-based model (IBM) of the woodpigeon. We used the model to predict distributions of foraging woodpigeons that use one of six alternative foraging strategies: optimal foraging, memory-based foraging and random foraging, each with or without flocking mechanisms. We used pattern-oriented modelling to determine which of the foraging strategies is best able to reproduce observed data patterns. Data used for model evaluation were gathered during a long-term woodpigeon study conducted between 1961 and 2004 and a radiotracking study conducted in 2003 and 2004, both in the UK, and are summarised here as three complex patterns: the distributions of foraging birds between vegetation types during the year, the number of fields visited daily by individuals, and the proportion of fields revisited by them on subsequent days. The model with a memory-based foraging strategy and a flocking mechanism was the only one to reproduce these three data patterns, and the optimal foraging model produced poor matches to all of them. The random foraging strategy reproduced two of the three patterns but was not able to guarantee population persistence. We conclude that with the memory-based foraging strategy including a flocking mechanism our model is realistic enough to estimate the potential exposure of woodpigeons to pesticides. We discuss how exposure can be linked to our model, and how the model could be used for risk assessment of pesticides, for example predicting exposure and effects in heterogeneous landscapes planted seasonally with a variety of crops, while accounting for differences in land use between landscapes.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:37860
Uncontrolled Keywords:Pesticide risk assessment; Spatial distribution; Optimal foraging theory; Model complexity; Structural sensitivity analysis

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