Long-term population study in great and blue tits

Cavity-nesting birds are a highly suitable system to monitor populations in a standardized fashion over long periods of time. We have annual breeding and survival data on marked individuals since 1979 for the Peerdsbos site (a 12 hectare plot inside a 300-ha forest) and since 1994 for the Boshoek site (many small woodlots in an agricultural/residential matrix), both near Antwerp.

While these study sites were initiated for other purposes (interspecific competition, dispersal, effects of habitat fragmentation) the accumulated data allow us to investigate long-term trends in population dynamics and changes in selection pressures.

Our data have been used in a series of large-scale collaborations analyzing long-term data collected across Europe. In 2011 we published a detailed analysis of our own data showing how our population has been able to cope with increasing spring temperatures by adjusting multiple components of the breeding cycle.

Highlighted publications

Matthysen E, Adriaensen F, Dhondt AA. 2011.
Multiple responses to increasing spring temperatures in the breeding cycle of blue and great tits.
Global Change Biology, 17:1-16  (download PDF - 0.3 Mb)

Saether B-E, S. Engen, V. Grøtan, W. Fiedler, E. Matthysen, M.E. Visser, J. Wright, A.P. Møller, F. Adriaensen, H. van Balen, D. Balmer, M.C. Mainwaring, R.H. McCleery, M. Pampus, W. Winkel. 2007.
The extended Moran effect and large-scale synchronous fluctuations in the size of great tit and blue tit populations.
Journal Animal Ecology  76: 315-325.  (download PDF - 0.4 Mb)

Saether B-E, Engen S, Møller AP, Visser ME, Matthysen E, Fiedler W,  Lambrechts MM, Becker P, Brommer JE, Dickinson J, du Feu C, Gehlbach FR, Merilä J, Rendell W, Thomson D, Török J. 2005.
Time to extinction of bird populations.
Ecology 86: 693-700.  (download PDF -  0.3 Mb)