Dr Lucy Mason

Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science

Background

I am a conservation ecologist with over 10 years' experience in avian ecology and applied conservation research.

My research has predominantly focussed on the ecology of breeding waders and the development and testing of conservation solutions to address their population declines. This has included a variety of projects tackling the predation issues faced by breeding waders on lowland wet grassland, and identifying conservation grazing management solutions to address the declines of redshank on coastal saltmarsh.

I have also been involved in research into the impacts of climate change on European and North American bird species, and recently lead an evidence review of the impacts of non-native gamebird releasing in the UK.

I have experience managing a large number of research assistants and postgraduate students and am well-practiced in advanced statistical analysis techniques, literature review and scientific writing. In the past I have conducted and provided training in field skills such as wader nest finding and chick ringing, radio-telemetry, predator monitoring, bird survey techniques, plant identification and habitat surveys.

Contact

Lucy Mason

Dr Lucy Mason

Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science

RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, based in North Scotland

lucy.mason@rspb.org.uk

@LucyRMason

Research Gate

Google Scholar

Specialisms

Agriculture Climate change Identifying problems Protected areas UK species

Selected Publications

The impacts of non-native gamebird release in the UK: an updated evidence review

Recreational shooting of non-native gamebirds (pheasants and red-legged partridges) in the UK is
underpinned by a suite of management practices. A major aspect is the annual large-scale release
of birds to be shot, which is steadily increasing with an estimated 57 million birds released in 2016;
this scale of non-native gamebird release exceeds any similar activity in Europe or North America.

Approximately one third of released birds are shot, while the majority of the remaining birds die
from other causes during the year of release or survive in very low numbers to join the population
of pheasants and partridges now residing in the wild in the UK.

The number of gamebirds released has increased since the 1990s, while the number shot has
remained relatively stable, and this reduction in releasing-efficiency is potentially driven by a
reduction in gamebird survival and an increase in late winter shooting, meaning that more birds
must be released during autumn to ensure enough survive to be shot in January.
There is concern that this large and increasing release of gamebirds and associated shooting practices may be having negative impacts on the UK’s native wildlife. However, there may also be positive ecological, economic and social impacts of gamebird release activities.

Date
12 October 2020
RSPB Authors
Dr Lucy Mason, Dr Jen Smart, Dr Will Peach
Authors
Lucy R. Mason, Jake E. Bicknell, Jennifer Smart, Will J. Peach
Published in
RSPB Research Report No. 66
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Are agri-environment schemes successful in delivering conservation grazing management on saltmarsh?

Grasslands occur around the globe and, in temperate regions, their natural management by fire, drought and wild herbivores has largely been replaced by grazing with domestic livestock. Successful management for agriculture is not always suitable for conservation and can have a detrimental effect on biodiversity. Conservation grazing of saltmarshes, delivered through agri-environment schemes, may provide a solution to counteract biodiversity loss by providing farmers with financial incentives to graze these internationally important coastal wetlands more sensitively.
To assess whether conservation grazing is being achieved and whether agri-environment schemes are effective in delivering this management, we conducted a national survey on English saltmarshes, scoring the management on each site as optimal, suboptimal or detrimental in terms of suitability for achieving conservation aims for five aspects of grazing: presence, stock type, intensity, timing and habitat impact.
Although most saltmarshes suitable for grazing in England were grazed, conservation grazing was not being achieved. Sites under agri-environment management for longer did score higher and approached optimal levels in terms of grazing intensity in one region, but sites with agri-environment agreements were no more likely to be grazed at optimal conservation levels than sites without them overall, indicating that agri-environment schemes, in their current form, are an ineffective delivery mechanism for conservation grazing on saltmarsh.
The low specificity of agri-environment prescription wording may contribute to this failure, with prescriptions either being vague or specifying suboptimal or detrimental management objectives, particularly for grazing intensity, timing and stock type. These objectives are often set too high or too low, during unsuitable periods or using stock types inappropriate for achieving conservation aims.
Synthesis and applications. Our national survey indicates that agri-environment schemes are not currently delivering conservation grazing on English saltmarshes. Agri-environment schemes are the only mechanism through which such grazing can be implemented on a national scale, so improving their effectiveness is a priority. Policymakers, researchers and managers need to work together to ensure better translation of conservation guidelines into schemes, increasing the specificity of management prescriptions and improving understanding of the need for management measures. A more detailed and reliable system of auditing to ensure that management activities are taking place would be beneficial or alternatively moving to a results-based scheme where payments are made on desirable outcomes rather than on evidence of management.

Date
20 April 2019
RSPB Authors
Dr Lucy Mason, Dr Jen Smart
Authors
Mason, Lucy R Feather, Alastair Godden, Nick Vreugdenhil, Chris C Smart, Jennifer
Published in
Journal of Applied Ecology
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Tracking day and night provides insights into the relative importance of different wader chick predators

Poor reproductive success driven by nest and chick predation severely limits the population recovery of waders breeding on lowland wet grassland. Managing predation requires knowledge of the predators...

Date
02 January 2018
RSPB Authors
Dr Lucy Mason, Dr Jen Smart
Authors
Mason, L.R., Smart, J. & Drewitt, A.L.
Published in
Ibis 160 (1): 71-88
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Consistent response of bird populations to climate change on two continents

Global climate change is a major threat to biodiversity. Large-scale analyses have generally focused on the impacts of climate change on the geographic ranges of species and on phenology, the timing of ecological phenomena. We used long-term monitoring of the abundance of ...

Date
01 April 2016
RSPB Authors
Dr Lucy Mason, Prof Rhys Green, Prof Richard Gregory
Authors
Stephens, P.A., Mason, L.R., Green, R.E., Gregory, R.D., Sauer, J.R., Alison, J., Aunins, A., Brotons, L., Butchart, S.H.M., Campedelli, T., Chodkiewic, T., Chylarecki, P., Crowe, O., Elts, J., Escandell, V., Foppen, R.P.B., Heldbjerg, H., Herrando, S., Husby, M., Jiguet, F., Lehikoinen, A., Lindstroem, A., Noble, D.G., Paquet, J.-Y., Reif, J., Sattler, T., Szep, T., Teufelbauer, N., Trautmann, S., van Strien, A.J., Van Turnhout, C., Vorisek, P. & Willis, S.G.
Published in
Science 352: 84-87
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The use of predator-exclusion fencing as a management tool improves the breeding success of waders on lowland wet grassland

Waders breeding on lowland wet grassland have undergone dramatic declines across Europe in recent decades. Few species now achieve the levels of breeding success required for population stability and ...

Date
09 November 2012
RSPB Authors
Dr Jen Smart, Dr Lucy Mason
Authors
Malpas, L.R., Kennerley, R.J., Hirons, G.J.M, Sheldon, R.D., Ausden, M., Gilbert, J.C. & Smart, J.
Published in
Journal for Nature Conservation
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