Many bird species are subject to human-caused mortality, either through direct harvest (e.g. game birds) or through incidental mortalities (e.g. fisheries-related bycatch of seabirds, impact with vehicles, wind turbines, or power lines). In order to assess the impact of additional mortalities on birds, both the number of birds killed and their ability to sustain those deaths must be estimated. Niel and Lebreton [Niel, C., Lebreton, J.-D., 2005. Using demographic invariants to detect overharvested bird populations from incomplete data. Conservation Biology 19, 826–835] applied a simple decision rule [Wade, P.R., 1998. Calculating limits to the allowable human-caused mortality of cetaceans and pinnipeds. Marine Mammal Science 14, 1–37] to estimate the level of additional human-caused mortality or potential biological removal (PBR) that can be sustained for bird species given only (1) estimates of the population size, adult survival, and age at first breeding, and (2) the current population status and management goals. We provide guidelines for appropriate use of the method and case studies comparing results from this method to other approaches. Particular focus is placed on applying the method to Procellariiformes.
PBR limits may then be set without a population model and when monitoring levels are minimal, and in a computationally straightforward manner. While this approach has many advantages, there are limitations. The PBR rule was initially developed for cetaceans and pinnipeds and there have been no adaptations for the unique biology of birds which may need further consideration. Additionally, because this is a simplifying method that ignores differences in life stages, it may not be appropriate for very small populations or for those listed as ‘critically endangered’, and further work is needed for situations where mortalities have large gender or age bias.