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Debora Arlt

Debora Arlt
I am a population ecologist, I am interested in how the environment shapes individual variation in behaviour and demography and hence population dynamics. In my research I focus on habitat selection and dispersal, and how those processes interact with habitat and climate to affect individual fitness and population dynamics. Other projects concern long-term monitoring of landscape, and promoting the use of Citizen Science data for evaluations of environmental changes. Since October 2018 I work for Swedish LifeWatch and Wireless Remote Animal Monitoring (e-infrastructures for biodiversity data).



Small changes in timing of breeding among subarctic passerines over a 32 year period. published in Ibis. doi:10.1111/ibi.12682

new collaborative study using data from the wheatear project published in Science of The Total Environment: Hatching failure and accumulation of organic pollutants through the terrestrial food web of a declining songbird in Western Europe: Many migratory songbirds decline without reasons being known. We found elevated hatching failure in eggs of Dutch Northern Wheatears and explore potential causes. We measured different toxins as dioxin-like compounds in the foodweb and determined receptor type. Despite clear accumulation in the food chain, DLCs are unlikely the only cause of egg failure since Northern Wheatears have a not very sensitive receptor type. Egg failure and embryo malformation are still a mystery: we discuss other toxins, nutrient deficiency or inbreeding.

read the full story here

Sensitivity of binomial N‐mixture models to overdispersion: The importance of assessing model fit. published in Methods in Ecology & Evolution. doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.13062

new study from the wheatear project published in Ecology and Evolution: Thermal progression of spring and breeding time of wheatears advanced, but despite breeding earlier with respect to date, wheatears bred later with respect to thermal spring progression. Over the same time period, selection for breeding time changed and demographic rates and nestling weight declined markedly. Despite superficial evidence from those trends suggesting demographic effects of changes in phenological matching between timing of breeding and thermal progression of spring, direct evidence, from links based on annual variation of the degree of phenological matching and within-season fitness advantage of early breeding and population demographic rates, was lacking.

read the Swedish press release here


World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice

More than 16,000 scientists from 184 countries have published a second warning to humanity advising that we need to change our wicked ways to help the planet.(CNN)


Current projects:

Population dynamics of a migrant passerine bird, the northern wheatear

Use of opportunistic citizen science data (data from the Swedish Species Gateway Artportalen)

Estimation of phenology using opportunistic citizen science data from the Swedish Species Gateway Artportalen

Monitoring of agricultural landscape (data from Regional miljöövervakning)


Habitat selection, dispersal, life-history and population dynamics: Linking habitat selection, dispersal and population dynamics using demographic data from a long-term population study of northern wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe), a farmland bird breeding in a mosaic agricultural landscape in Central Sweden. During my post-doctoral studies I also used data from a long-term population study of Mauritius kestrels. Spatial dynamics, density-dependence and population regulation. Population responses to environmental variation and environmental change. Read more about the wheatear project here (sorry, at the moment only in Swedish).

Climatic variation, breeding time and population dynamics: Investigating population responses to environmental change, using data from a long-term population study of northern wheatears.

Migration: We have used geolocators to track wheatears during their annual cycle, studying their migratory route and winter area and migration schedule. We link climatic conditions during the winter area and on migration to variation of demographic rates. We aim at identifying the relative role of environmental variation during the breeding and wintering (migration) period, and the stages during the annual cycle most critical for population dynamics for this long-distance migrant.

Population dynamics of wheatears - people currently involved: Tomas Pärt, Matt Low, Pär Forslund, Matthieu Paquet, Jonas Knape. People previously involved: Sönke Eggers, Meit Öberg, Tobias Jeppsson, Matthew Hiron; Nicole Schneider

Changes in phenology: Investigating changes in arrival dates and breeding time of northern wheatears and their role for reproduction and survival. Estimating changes in arrival times using Citizen Science data from the Swedish Species Gateway Artportalen, latitudinal variation in phenological shifts, and link to population trends by linking opportunistic citizen science data and monitoring data. I am also involved in starting a standardised bird phenology monitoring scheme Fågelkalendern.

Using opportunistic citizen science data for evaluations of environmental change: Can opportunistically collected citizen science data be used to monitor, evaluate and predict effects of environmental change on biodiversity? This projects aims at promoting the use of opportunistic citizen science data, mainly data reported to the Swedish Species Gateway Artportalen . This data can be of value for environmental evaluations & nature conservation, with reports of species observations collected by volunteers providing rich spatial & temporal resolution. But those data lack standardisation, with reports shaped by the preferences of observers, and not randomly distributed in space and time, creating biases that may cause erroneous interpretations. This project will identify and visualise problems of error and bias and provide guidelines on how to use these data. Financed by the Swedish Research Council FORMAS. people involved: Alejandro Ruete, Tomas Pärt

Landscape monitoring in Sweden: The regional landscape monitoring (Regional landskapsövervakning) surveys small biotopes (small landscape elements), grassland and wetlands in collaboration between county boards (länsstyrelser) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences – SLU. What is the status of habitats important for plants and animals, and how do those habitat change over time? Since 2014 I am working with data from the inventory of small biotopes in the agricultural landscape. We are investigating the prerequisites for a rich agricultural landscape and farmland biodiversity, and work on developing a small-biotope indicator to follow up on national environmental goals. people involved: Anders Glimskär, Merit Kindström, Jonas Josefsson

Selected publications

Ram D, Nyholm NEI, Arlt D & Lindström Å 2018 Small changes in timing of breeding among subarctic passerines over a 32 year period. Ibis. doi:10.1111/ibi.12682

van Oosten HH, van den Burg AB, Arlt D, Both C, van den Brink NW, Jeppsson T, de Kroon H, Traag W & Siepel H 2018 Hatching failure and accumulation of organic pollutants through the terrestrial food web of a declining songbird in Western Europe. Science of the Total Environment. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.09.138

Knape J, Arlt D, Barraquand F, Berg Å, Chevalier M, Pärt T, Ruete A & Żmihorski M 2018 Sensitivity of binomial N-mixture models to overdispersion: the importance of assessing model fit. Methods in Ecol & Evol. doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.1306

Arlt D & Pärt T. 2017. Marked reduction in demographic rates and reduced fitness advantage for early breeding is not linked to reduced thermal matching of breeding time. Ecology & Evolution. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.3603

Pärt T, Knape J, Low M, Öberg M & Arlt D. Disentangling the effects of date, individual and territory quality on the seasonal decline in fitness. Ecology. doi: 10.1002/ecy.1891

Glimskär, A., Arlt, D., Grandin, U., Kindström, M., Kindström, S. & Wikberg, S. 2016. Resultat från regionala delprogram för småbiotoper, gräsmarker och myrar 2009-2014. Report. Länsstyrelsen i Örebro län, Publ. nr. 2016:35.

Schmaljohann H, Meier C, Arlt D, Bairlein F, van Oosten H, Morbey YE, Åkesson S, Buchmann M, Chernetsov N, Desaever R, Elliott J, Hellström M, Liechti F, López A, Middleton J, Ottosson U, Pärt T, Slina F & Eikenaar C 2016 Proximate causes of avian protandry differ between subspecies with contrasting migration challenges. Behavioral Ecology 27:321-331, doi: 10.1093/beheco/arv160.

Arlt D, Olsson P, Fox J, Low M & Pärt T 2015 Prolonged stopover duration characterises migration strategy and constraints of a long-distance migrant songbird. Animal Migration 2:47–62. doi: 10.1515/ami-2015-0002

Low M, Arlt D, Pärt T & Öberg M 2015 Delayed timing of breeding as a cost of reproduction. Journal of Avian Biology 46:325–331. doi: 10.1111/jav.00623. Editor's choice

Öberg M, Pärt T, Arlt D, Laugen A & Low M 2015 Rainfall during parental care reduces reproductive and survival components of fitness in a passerine bird. Ecology & Evolution 5:345–356. doi: 10.1002/ece3.1345

Öberg M, Pärt T, Arlt D, Laugen AT & Low M. 2014 Decomposing the seasonal fitness decline. Oecologia 174:139-150. doi: 10.1007/s00442-013-2763-z

Arlt D, Low M & Pärt T. 2013 Effect of geolocators on migration and subsequent breeding performance of a long-distance migrant. PLoS ONE 8(12): e82316. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082316

Nevoux M, Arlt D, Nicoll M, Jones C & Norris K 2013 The short- and long-term fitness consequences of natal dispersal in a wild bird population. Ecology Letters 16:438–445. doi: 10.1111/ele.12060

Schneider NA, Low M, Arlt D & Pärt T 2012 Contrast in Edge Vegetation Structure modifies the Predation Risk of Natural Ground Nests in an Agricultural Landscape. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31517. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031517 x

Pärt T, Arlt D, Doligez B, Low M & Qvarnström A 2011 Prospectors combine social and environmental information to improve habitat selection and breeding success in the subsequent year. Journal of Animal Ecology 80:1227–1235. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2011.01854.x

Nevoux M, Gimenez O, Arlt D, Nicoll M, Jones C & Norris K 2011 Population regulation of territorial species: both site dependence and interference mechanisms matter. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 278:2173-2181. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.2352

Ahlering MA, Arlt D, Betts MG, Fletcher RJ, Nocera JJ & Ward MP 2010 Research needs and recommendations for the use of conspecific attraction methods in the conservation of migratory songbirds. Condor 112:252-264

Low M, Arlt D, Eggers S & Pärt T 2010 Habitat-specific differences in adult survival rates and its links to parental workload and on-nest predation. Journal of Animal Ecology 79:214-224

Arlt D, Forslund P, Jeppsson T & Pärt T 2008 Habitat-specific population growth of a farmland bird. PLoS ONE 3, e3006. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003006

Low M, Eggers S, Arlt D & Pärt T 2008 Daily patterns of nest visits are correlated with ambient temperature in the northern wheatear. Journal of Ornithology 140:515-519

Arlt D & Pärt T 2008 Sex-biased dispersal: a result of a sex-difference in breeding site availability. American Naturalist 171:844-850

Arlt D & Pärt T 2008 Post-breeding information gathering and breeding territory shifts in northern wheatears. Journal of Animal Ecology 77:211-219

Pärt T, Arlt D & Villard M-A 2007 Detecting ecological traps: avian and human perspectives. Journal of Ornithology 148:S327-332

Arlt D & Pärt T 2007 Nonideal breeding habitat selection: A mismatch between preference and breeding success. Ecology 88:792-801


ReserachGate profile

Google Scholar profile

Nature conservation & biological diversity at the Deptartment of Ecology

northern wheatear project (in Swedish)

Regional miljöövervakning

Sedish LifeWatch SLW


Wireless Animal Romote Monitoring WRAM

Researcher at the Swedish Species Information Centre; Forskning och fynddata
Telephone: 018-672229
Postal address:
Inst för Ekologi, Box 7044
750 07 UPPSALA
Visiting address: Ulls Väg 16, Uppsala