The size and distribution of colonies of burrow-nesting petrels is thought to be limited partly by the availability of suitable breeding habitat and partly by predation. Historically, the availability of safe nesting habitat was restricted in New Zealand, due to the introduction of rats by humans. More recently, however, habitat has been restored by rat eradication. Petrel colony growth is mediated by both positive and negative density dependence, although it is unclear if, or how, density dependence will affect patterns in post-eradication colony recovery.
The theory of population regulation predicts that threatened species are safest at high population numbers, partly because density-dependent compensatory mechanisms counteract unpredictable disturbances. We illustrate this principle using data from the endemic kokako (Callaeas cinerea wilsoni) populations in the North Island, New Zealand. First we calculate the fledging rate per female (production) necessary to stabilise the population and thereby the residual numbers of nest predators, namely ship rats and possums, which have to be achieved to reach this production.
Translocation to island reserves is a common strategy in New Zealand and elsewhere for safeguarding species against introduced predators. When successful, however, the closed nature and relatively small size of many island sanctuaries can result in populations quickly reaching their carrying capacity, which in itself can present further challenges such as reduced productivity and population growth rates associated with density-dependent effects as well as increased rates of inbreeding.