Population simulation models as an aid to gamebird management.
Models which describe either an ecological system or an animal population are gaining popularity in ecology; particularly as computer knowledge amongst biologists increases. Indeed, the application of models in ecology has been considered 'almost compulsory if we want to understand the function of such a complex system' (Jorgensen, 1986).
Ecological models have been used to design surveys of complex systems as well as to reveal weaknesses in current knowledge so that future research might be better directed. Furthermore, they have been used to investigate scientific hypotheses by producing, through simulation, an expected distribution of animal numbers to compare with observed distributions in nature. However, models have sometimes been used with little regard for the complexities of the system and it is necessary to state that models can only be as accurate and useful as is permitted by the quality of the information from which they are built.
Most models developed for game populations have concentrated on the factors influencing the potential harvest but considerable effort has also been given to constructing models which incorporate the habitat requirements of game populations. If a model predicts the effects of different management techniques, then much time and money can be saved. Also the predictions can be used to influence directly the way in which experiments are conducted.
This chapter describes the types of models that can be used in the management of a wild gamebird, the techniques and principles used to construct a model and the application of such models to game management.