In my PhD project I combine attributes of landscape connectivity metrics and migration models to evaluate the structure of waterbird migration networks. This modelling approach allows to identify wetland sites and routes that are of disproportionate importance for facilitating migration. By modifying optimality criteria (e.g. number of stopovers and flight range), it is possible to compare network implications of different migration strategies.

The main focus lies on the Black Sea-Mediterranean flyway and specifically Greece, which forms a bridgehead for crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Gradually building up from my master thesis on wetland connectivity of Ionian and Libyan wetlands for a diverse set of waterbirds, I will apply and validate the connectivity model in different case studies. For example, habitat-based analyses will be complemented with tracking data from two Pelican species, in collaboration with the Society for the Protection of Prespa and the Israel Nature and Parks authority. Also, the suitability of international conservation initiatives such as the European Union’s Nature Directives will be addressed by analysing current and potential protected area network structure.

This project is funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). Promotors are Prof. Nico Koedam and Prof. Bram Vanschoenwinkel. Prof. Santiago Saura is an external partner from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.

Van der Stocken T., Hugé J., Deboelpaep E., Vanhove M.P.M., Janssens de Bisthoven L. & Koedam N. (2016) Academic capacity building: holding up a mirror. Scientometrics 106(3): 1277-1280.

Merken R., Deboelpaep E., Teunen J., Saura S. & Koedam N. (2015) Wetland suitability and connectivity for trans-Saharan migratory waterbirds. PLOS ONE 10(8):e0135445.

Van der Stocken T., De Ryck D.J.R., Vanschoenwinkel B., Deboelpaep E., Bouma T.J., Dahdouh-Guebas F. & Koedam N. (2015) Impact of landscape structure on propagule dispersal in mangrove forests. Marine Ecology Progress Series 524:95-106.