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Effectiveness of actions intended to achieve a voluntary transition from the use of lead to non-lead shotgun ammunition for hunting in Britain

In 2020, nine major UK shooting and rural organisations proposed a voluntary transition from the use for hunting of lead
shotgun ammunition to non-lead alternatives. The major food retailer Waitrose & Partners has announced its intention
to move to not supplying game meat products from animals killed using any kind of lead ammunition and the National
Game Dealers Association announced a plan for a similar policy to be implemented in 2022. The SHOT-SWITCH research
project, which is intended to monitor the progress of these voluntary initiatives, began in the 2020/2021 shooting season.
The project monitors changes in the proportions of wild-shot common pheasants Phasianus colchicus available to
consumers in Great Britain that had been killed using lead and non-lead shotgun ammunition, as assessed by using
inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry to identify the composition of shotgun pellets recovered from
carcasses. In 2020/2021, 99.4% of the pheasants sampled had been killed using lead ammunition. We report here further
results from this study for the 2021/2022 season. We found that 99.5% of the 215 pheasants from which shotgun pellets
were recovered had been killed using lead ammunition. We conclude that the shooting and rural organisations’ joint
statement and two years of their considerable efforts in education, awareness-raising and promotion, have not yet had
a detectable effect on the ammunition types used by hunters who supply pheasants to the British game meat market.

Date
24 February 2022
Authors
Green, Rhys E Taggart, Mark A Pain, Deborah J Clark, Nigel A Clewley, Louise Cromie, Ruth Dodd, Stephanie G Elliot, Bob Green, Ros MW Huntley, Brian Huntley, Jacqui Pap, Sabolc Porter, Richard Robinson, James A Sheldon, Rob Smith, Ken W Smith, Linda Spencer, Jonathan Stroud, David
Published in
Conservation Evidence Journal
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A framework for climate change adaptation indicators for the natural environment

Impacts of climate change on natural and human systems will become increasingly severe as the magnitude of climate change increases. Climate change adaptation interventions to address current and projected impacts are thus paramount. Yet, evidence on their effectiveness remains limited, highlighting the need for appropriate ecological indicators to measure progress of climate change adaptation for the natural environment. We outline conceptual, analytical, and practical challenges in developing such indicators, before proposing a framework with three process-based and two results-based indicator types to track progress in adapting to climate change. We emphasize the importance of dynamic assessment and modification over time, as new adaptation targets are set and/or as intervention actions are monitored and evaluated. Our framework and proposed indicators are flexible and widely applicable across species, habitats, and monitoring programmes, and could be accommodated within existing national or international frameworks to enable the evaluation of both large-scale policy instruments and local management interventions. We conclude by suggesting further work required to develop these indicators fully, and hope this will stimulate the use of ecological indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of policy interventions for the adaptation of the natural environment across the globe.

Date
24 February 2022
RSPB Authors
Prof Richard Gregory
Authors
Pearce-Higgins, JW Antão, LH Bates, RE Bowgen, KM Bradshaw, Catherine D Duffield, SJ Ffoulkes, Charles Franco, AMA Geschke, J Gregory, RD Harley, MJ Hodgson, JA Jenkins, RLM Kapos, V Maltby, KMM Watts, O Willis, SG Morecroft, MD
Published in
Ecological indicators
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A quantitative global review of species population monitoring

Species monitoring, defined here as the repeated, systematic collection of data to detect long-term changes in the populations of wild species, is a vital component of conservation practice and policy. We created a database of nearly 1200 schemes, ranging in start date from 1800 to 2018, to review spatial, temporal, taxonomic, and methodological patterns in global species monitoring. We identified monitoring schemes through standardized web searches, an online survey of stakeholders, in-depth national searches in a sample of countries, and a review of global biodiversity databases. We estimated the total global number of monitoring schemes operating at 3300–15,000. Since 2000, there has been a sharp increase in the number of new schemes being initiated in lower- and middle-income countries and in megadiverse countries, but a decrease in high-income countries. The total number of monitoring schemes in a country and its per capita gross domestic product were strongly, positively correlated. Schemes that were active in 2018 had been running for an average of 21 years in high-income countries, compared with 13 years in middle-income countries and 10 years in low-income countries. In high-income countries, over one-half of monitoring schemes received government funding, but this was less than one-quarter in low-income countries. Data collection was undertaken partly or wholly by volunteers in 37% of schemes, and such schemes covered significantly more sites and species than those undertaken by professionals alone. Birds were by far the most widely monitored taxonomic group, accounting for around half of all schemes, but this bias declined over time. Monitoring in most taxonomic groups remains sparse and uncoordinated, and most of the data generated are elusive and unlikely to feed into wider biodiversity conservation processes. These shortcomings could be addressed by, for example, creating an open global meta-database of biodiversity monitoring schemes and enhancing capacity for species monitoring in countries with high biodiversity.

Date
17 February 2022
RSPB Authors
Prof Richard Gregory
Authors
Moussy, Caroline Burfield, Ian J Stephenson, PJ Newton, Arabella FE Butchart, Stuart HM Sutherland, William J Gregory, Richard D McRae, Louise Bubb, Philip Roesler, Ignacio
Published in
Conservation Biology
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Assessing bycatch risk from gillnet fisheries for three species of diving seabird in the UK

Incidental mortality (bycatch) in fisheries represents a threat to marine vertebrates. Research has predominantly focussed on bycatch in longline fisheries, but bycatch from gillnet fisheries is of increasing concern. To address this concern, we combined comprehensive biologging data sets and multiple sources of fishing effort data to assess the spatial overlap of 3 diving seabird species during the breeding season (common guillemot Uria aalge, razorbill Alca torda and European shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis) with UK gillnet fisheries. Species distribution models based on birds’ diving behaviour identified areas of elevated bycatch risk where high levels of diving activity and fishing effort coincided. In addition, we identified times of day and water depths where diving activity, and hence bycatch risk, may be concentrated. Bycatch risk hotspots for all 3 species were identified along the north-east coast of England. Risk hotspots were also identified along the Pembrokeshire coast for both auk species and along the Cornish coast for shag. Lack of fishing effort data for smaller vessels made it difficult to assess seabird-fishery overlap in Scottish waters. Across species, diving activity was lower at night. For razorbill and guillemot, dive depth tended to increase at sunrise and decrease after sunset. For shag, dive depth showed no diel pattern but was associated with water depth. Our findings should assist in targeting spatio-temporal measures and designing deterrent devices to reduce bycatch. However, scarcity of data on the behaviour of gillnet fishers at comparable spatio-temporal resolution as seabird movement data remains a constraint to fully understanding seabird-fisheries interactions.

Date
17 February 2022
RSPB Authors
Ian Cleasby, Linda Wilson, Dr Ellie Owen, Dr Mark Bolton
Authors
Cleasby, Ian R Wilson, Linda J Crawford, Rory Owen, Ellie Rouxel, Yann Bolton, Mark
Published in
Marine Ecology Progress Series
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Winter colony attendance by adult Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus: implications for rodent eradications

Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus are partial migrants, but the proportion of adult males and females that visit the colony on Gough Island during winter is poorly defined. A better understanding of winter colony attendance is important to predict the possible impact of non-target mortality during restoration efforts involving poison baiting to eradicate introduced mammals. We repeatedly checked the individual identity of all giant petrels attending the largest breeding colony on Gough Island for rings during April-May 2021. Although the maximum number of individually identifiable ringed adults in a single check was 202, overall, 353 ringed adults were recorded, including almost 90% of the individuals that bred in 2020. Males were more likely to be present than females, but the ratio of males to females decreased from the end of April (3.24:1) to the latter half of May (1.25:1). Many birds were paired with their previous breeding partners by the end of May, despite egg laying not starting until late August. Our observations indicate that most adult Southern Giant Petrels are present at their breeding colonies on Gough Island 3-4 months before breeding, and are thus potentially susceptible to non-target poisoning during mammal eradication operations.

Date
10 February 2022
RSPB Authors
Dr Steffen Oppel
Authors
Ryan, Peter G Oppel, Steffen
Published in
Marine Ornithology
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An assessment of relative habitat use as a metric for species’ habitat association and degree of specialization

In order to understand species’ sensitivity to habitat change, we must correctly determine if a species is associated with a habitat or not, and if it is associated, its degree of specialization for that habitat. However, definitions of species’ habitat association and specialization are often static, categorical classifications that coarsely define species as either habitat specialists or generalists and can fail to account for potential temporal or spatial differences in association or specialization. In contrast, quantitative metrics can provide a more nuanced assessment, defining species’ habitat associations and specialization along a continuous scale and accommodate for temporal or spatial variation, but these approaches are less widely used. Here we explore relative habitat use (RHU) as a metric for quantifying species’ association with and degree of specialization for different habitat types. RHU determines the extent of a species’ association with a given habitat by comparing its abundance in that habitat relative to its mean abundance across all other habitats. Using monitoring data for breeding birds across Europe from 1998 to 2017; we calculate RHU scores for 246 species for five habitat types and compared them to the literature-based classifications of their association with and specialization for each of these habitats. We also explored the temporal variation in species’ RHU scores for each habitat and assessed how this varied according to association and degree of specialization. In general, species’ RHU and literature-derived classifications were well aligned, as RHU scores for a given habitat increased in line with reported association and specialization. In addition, temporal variation in RHU scores were influenced by association and degree of specialization, with lower scores for those associated with, and those more specialized to, a given habitat. As a continuous metric, RHU allows a detailed assessment of species’ association with and degree of specialization for different habitats that can be tailored to specific temporal and/or spatial requirements. It has the potential to be a valuable tool for identifying indicator species and in supporting the design, implementation and monitoring of conservation management actions.

Date
01 February 2022
RSPB Authors
Prof Richard Gregory
Authors
O'Reilly, Enya Gregory, Richard D Aunins, Ainars Brotons, Lluís Chodkiewicz, Tomasz Escandell, Virginia Foppen, Ruud PB Gamero, Anna Herrando, Sergi Jiguet, Frédéric
Published in
Ecological Indicators
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Net soil carbon balance in afforested peatlands and separating autotrophic and heterotrophic soil CO 2 effluxes

Peatlands are a significant global carbon (C) store, which can be compromised by drainage and afforestation. Quantifying the rate of C loss from peat soils under forestry is challenging, as soil CO2 efflux includes both CO2 produced from heterotrophic peat decomposition and CO2 produced by tree roots and associated fungal networks (autotrophic respiration). We experimentally terminated autotrophic below-ground respiration in replicated forest plots by cutting through all living tree roots (trenching) and measured soil surface CO2 flux, litter input, litter decay rate, and soil temperature and moisture over 2 years. Decomposition of cut roots was measured and CO2 fluxes were corrected for this, which resulted in a large change in the fraction heterotrophic : autotrophic flux, suggesting that even 2 years after trenching decaying root biomass makes significant contributions to the CO2 flux. Annual peat decomposition (heterotrophic CO2 flux) was 115 ± 16 g C m−2 yr−1, representing ca. 40 % of total soil respiration. Decomposition of needle litter is accelerated in the presence of an active rhizosphere, indicating a priming effect by labile C inputs from roots. This suggests that our estimates of peat mineralization in our trenched plots are conservative and underestimate overall rates of peat C loss. Considering also input of litter from trees, our results indicate that the soils in these 30-year-old drained and afforested peatlands are a net sink for C, since substantially more C enters the soil organic matter than is decomposed heterotrophically. This study does not account for fluvial C fluxes, which represent a small flux compared to the CO2 soil efflux; further, root litter and exudate deposition could be a significant C source that is only partially sampled by our approach, adding to these plantations being a potential carbon sink. However, the C balance for these soils should be taken over the lifespan of the trees, in order to determine if the soils under these drained and afforested peatlands are a sustained sink of C or become a net source over longer periods of forestry.

Date
19 January 2022
Authors
Hermans, Renée McKenzie, Rebecca Andersen, Roxane Teh, Yit Arn Cowie, Neil Subke, Jens-Arne
Published in
Biogeosciences
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Better utilisation and transparency of bird data collected by powerline companies

There is in an ongoing expansion of powerlines as a result of an increasing global demand for energy. Powerlines have the potential to negatively impact wild bird populations through collisions and/or electrocution, and reducing bird powerline collision and electrocution risk is a priority for companies running high-voltage powerlines (known as Transmission System Operators (TSOs)). Most TSOs are legally required to assess any potentially significant impacts via Enivronmental Impact Assessments, and so potentially collect a significant amount of data on the presence of species, species behaviour, and observed mortality rates. The value of such data, if available, for reducing and preventing bird casualties could be enhanced by increasing availability across TSOs and other decision-makers. We review the extent to which the sharing of data is happening across Europe, and how the quality, scope and availability of bird data collected by European TSOs could be improved, through use of a questionnaire and workshop with TSOs, conservationists and academics. Sixteen European TSOs responded to the questionnaire and 30 stakeholders attended the workshop. There was wide recognition of the value of different types of data on birds at powerlines, and a positive attitude to working together to share and enhance data across stakeholders to achieve the shared goal of reducing bird mortalities. Key barriers to the sharing of data included a lack of a centralised database, the lack of standardised methods to collect bird data and concerns over the confidentiality of data and reports. In order to overcome these barriers and develop a collaborative approach to data sharing, and ultimately inform best practice to reduce significant negative impacts on bird populations, we suggest a stepwise approach that (1) develops guidance around the field methods and data to be collected for mitigation effectiveness and (2) shares meta-data/bibliography of studies of powerline impacts/mitigation effectiveness for birds. In time, a more structured approach to the sharing of data and information could be developed, to make data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

Date
15 January 2022
RSPB Authors
Dr Steffen Oppel
Authors
Kettel, Esther F Thaxter, Chris Oppel, Steffen Carryer, Andrew Innis, Liam Pearce-Higgins, James W
Published in
Journal of environmental management
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The relative importance of COVID‐19 pandemic impacts on biodiversity conservation globally

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on almost all aspects of human society and endeavor; the natural world and its conservation have not been spared. Through a process of expert consultation, we identified and categorized, into 19 themes and 70 subthemes, the ways in which biodiversity and its conservation have been or could be affected by the pandemic globally. Nearly 60% of the effects have been broadly negative. Subsequently, we created a compendium of all themes and subthemes, each with explanatory text, and in August 2020 a diverse group of experienced conservationists with expertise from across sectors and geographies assessed each subtheme for its likely impact on biodiversity conservation globally. The 9 subthemes ranked highest all have a negative impact. These were, in rank order, governments sidelining the environment during their economic recovery, reduced wildlife-based tourism income, increased habitat destruction, reduced government funding, increased plastic and other solid waste pollution, weakening of nature-friendly regulations and their enforcement, increased illegal harvest of wild animals, reduced philanthropy, and threats to survival of conservation organizations. In combination, these impacts present a worrying future of increased threats to biodiversity conservation but reduced capacity to counter them. The highest ranking positive impact, at 10, was the beneficial impact of wildlife-trade restrictions. More optimistically, among impacts ranked 11-20, 6 were positive and 4 were negative. We hope our assessment will draw attention to the impacts of the pandemic and, thus, improve the conservation community's ability to respond to such threats in the future.

Date
01 January 2022
RSPB Authors
Dr Richard Bradbury
Authors
Gibbons, David W Sandbrook, Chris Sutherland, William J Akter, Rezvin Bradbury, Richard Broad, Steven Clements, Andy Crick, Humphrey QP Elliott, Joanna Gyeltshen, Ngawang Heath, Melanie Hughes, Jonathan Jenkins, Richard KB Jones, Alastair H Lopez de la Lama, Rocio Macfarlane, Nicholas BW Maunder, Mike Prasad, Ravikash Romero-Muñoz, Alfredo Steiner, Noa Tremlett, James Trevelyan, Rosie Vijaykumar, Savita Wedage, Irushinie Ockendon, Nancy
Published in
Conservation Biology
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Cumulative impact assessments of multiple host species loss from plant diseases show disproportionate reductions in associated biodiversity

Non-native plant pests and pathogens are increasing exponentially, causing extirpation of foundation species. The impact of large-scale declines in a single host on associated biodiversity is widely documented. However, the impact of multiple host loss on biodiversity and whether these impacts are multiplicative has not been assessed. Ecological theory suggests that systems with greater functional redundancy (alternative hosts) will be more resilient to the loss of sympatric hosts. We test this theory and show its importance in relation to pest/pathogen impact assessments.
We assessed the potential impact on biodiversity of the loss of two widely occurring sympatric European tree species, Fraxinus excelsior and Quercus petraea/robur, both of which are currently threatened by a range of pests and pathogens.
At the UK scale, the total number of associated species at risk of extirpation from plant diseases affecting these two sympatric hosts is greater than the sum of the associated species at risk from declines in either host alone. F. excelsior hosts 45 obligate species (species only found on that host) and Q. petraea/robur hosts 326. However, a decline in both these trees would impact 512 associated species, across multiple taxon groups, a 38% increase. Assessments at a local scale, 24 mixed F. excelsior–Q. petraea/robur woodlands revealed that these impacts may be even greater due to a lack of functional redundancy. Only 21% of sites were able to provide functional redundancy for F. excelsior and Q. petraea/robur associated species which can use other tree species. In most woodlands, the tree species required to provide functional redundancy were not present, although the site conditions were often suitable for them to grow.
Synthesis. Understanding of functional redundancy should be applied to assessments of pests/pathogens impact on biodiversity. In risk assessments, higher impact scores should be given to pests/pathogens affecting hosts occurring with other host plant species already impacted by pests/pathogens. Current pest/pathogen risk assessment approaches that ignore the cumulative, cascading effects shown in this study may allow an insidious, mostly overlooked, driver of biodiversity loss to continue.

Date
01 January 2022
RSPB Authors
Paul Bellamy
Authors
Mitchell, Ruth J Bellamy, Paul E Broome, Alice Ellis, Chris J Hewison, Richard L Iason, Glenn R Littlewood, Nick A Newey, Scott Pozsgai, Gabor Ray, Duncan
Published in
Journal of Ecology
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