Si Bachir, A., Chenchouni, H., Djeddou, N., Barbraud, C., Céréghino, R. & Santoul, F. (2013). Using self-organizing maps to investigate environmental factors regulating colony size and breeding success of the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia). Journal of Ornithology 154(2): 481-489.
We studied variations in the size of breeding colonies and in breeding performance of White Storks Ciconia ciconia in 2006–2008 in north-east Algeria. Each colony site was characterized using 12 environmental variables describing the physical environment, land-cover categories, and human activities, and by three demographic parameters: the number of breeding pairs, the number of pairs with chicks, and the number of fledged chicks per pair. Generalized linear mixed models and the self-organizing map algorithm (SOM, neural network) were used to investigate effects of biotic, abiotic, and anthropogenic factors on demographic parameters and on their relationships. Numbers of breeding pairs and of pairs with chicks were affected by the same environmental factors, mainly anthropogenic, which differed from those affecting the number of fledged chicks per pair. Numbers of fledged chicks per pair was not affected by colony size or by the number of nests with chicks. The categorization of the environmental variables into natural and anthropogenic, in connection with demographic parameters, was relevant to detect factors explaining variation in colony size and breeding parameters. The SOM proved a relevant tool to help determine actual dynamics in White Stork colonies, and thus to support effective conservation decisions at a regional scale.