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The status of our bird populations: the fifth Birds of Conservation Concern in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man and second IUCN Red List assessment of extinction risk for Great Britain

The fifth review of Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCC5) in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man assessed and assigned 245 species to updated Red, Amber and Green lists of conservation concern and showed a continuing decline in the status of our bird populations.

In total, 70 species (29% of those assessed) are now on the Red list, up from 36 species in the first review in 1996. Since the last review, in 2015, Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus has been lost as a breeding species. Eleven species have been moved to the Red list, while only six species moved from Red to Amber. Newly Red-listed species include Common Swift Apus apus, House Martin Delichon urbicum, Greenfinch Chloris chloris and the globally threatened Leach’s Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa.

There has been no improvement in the overall status of species associated with farmland and upland, or Afro-Palearctic migrants; indeed, more such species have been Red-listed. Concerns over the status of our wintering wildfowl and wader populations have also increased. As a direct result of targeted conservation action, White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla has been moved from Red to Amber.

We also present the separate, and distinct, second IUCN Regional Red List assessment of extinction risk for Great Britain, which shows that 46% of 235 regularly occurring species, and 43% of 285 separate breeding and non-breeding populations, are assessed as being threatened with extinction from Great Britain.

Date
01 December 2021
RSPB Authors
Andrew Stanbury, Dr Mark Eaton
Authors
Stanbury, Andrew Eaton, Mark Aebischer, Nicholas Balmer, Dawn Brown, Andy Douse, Andy Lindley, Patrick McCulloch, Neil Noble, David Win, Ilka
Published in
British Birds
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The impact of tree loss on carbon management in West Africa

This study quantifies the amount of carbon stored and sequestered by vegetation in west Africa, carbon loss due to tree cover loss, and the potential natural sequestration relative to projected carbon emissions in 2030. GIS analysis of published data on vegetation biomass, tree cover, sequestration by vegetation and soil carbon indicate that vegetation and soil held 38,855 Mt of carbon in 2010, most of which was in above and below ground vegetation. The loss of 58,353 km2 (9%) of tree cover between 2010 and 2018 resulted in the loss of 672 Mt of 14,923 Mt carbon in vegetation. Key Biodiversity Areas, (sites of conservation importance), covered 7.4% of land but in 2010 contained 16% of carbon stored in vegetation. Trees sequestered between 23.6 and 53.6 Mt of carbon in 2018 (17% of which was in Key Biodiversity Areas). Restoration of the tree cover lost in west Africa between 2010 and 2018 could sequester an additional 27.5 Mt of carbon per annum during the first 30 years of growth. Our estimates indicate a combination of conservation and restoration of tree cover could sequester the equivalent of c.30% of projected 2030 regional emissions, contributing significantly towards mitigating climate change.

Date
23 November 2021
RSPB Authors
Dr Graeme Buchanan, Dr Rob Field, Dr Richard Bradbury
Authors
Buchanan, Graeme M Field, Rob H Bradbury, Richard B Luraschi, Beatriz Vickery, Juliet A
Published in
Carbon Management
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Wetlands support higher breeding wader densities than farmed habitats within a nature-rich farming system

Capsule

Wetlands with little or no agricultural activity support higher breeding wader densities than more intensively farmed habitats within a nature-rich farmed landscape.

Aims

To test whether breeding wader densities differ between habitats likely to receive varying agricultural management intensity, within a nature-rich farmed landscape.

Methods

Using the island of Sanday as a case study for the wader-rich Orkney archipelago, a whole-island breeding wader survey was used to generate population estimates and test whether breeding densities differed between habitats under varying management intensities.

Results

The island supported nationally high breeding wader densities, which approach those of high-density areas elsewhere in Europe. Densities of total waders and five out of six species tested varied significantly between habitats. Wetlands subject to no agricultural management or livestock grazing in some land units supported higher densities than more intensively farmed habitats for total waders, Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago and Common Redshank Tringa totanus and second-highest densities for Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata. Agriculturally unimproved grassland supported the highest densities for many species after wetlands. Agriculturally improved grassland supported consistently low relative breeding densities, and other habitats managed using mechanized farming (lower intensity improved grassland and arable) supported generally low relative densities, apart from for Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus.

Conclusions

Describing an entire mixed farming system as nature-rich may mask significant variation in the contribution of different habitats to the maintenance of high nature value. In this system, wetlands that were unmanaged or received low average grazing densities supported disproportionately high breeding wader densities and must be protected to maintain the high densities of most species. The further loss of wetlands, and the move towards intensively managed grassland, is a threat to the maintenance of high breeding wader densities on Orkney and in similar farmed landscapes.

Date
20 September 2021
RSPB Authors
Dr David Douglas
Authors
Douglas, David JT Lewis, Mark Thatey, Zuhail Teuten, Emma
Published in
Bird Study
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The time of singing by male Capercaillies Tetrao urogallus at leks

Counts at 16 Capercaillie leks revealed that singing started two hours before sunrise and reached a peak in the number that sang about one hour before sunrise. Most song had finished by sunrise, but some extended up to five hours after sunrise. The period of song was longer at leks where more males were seen and/or heard. Such field observations may be useful in interpreting data from unattended acoustic recorders.

Date
16 September 2021
RSPB Authors
Dr Ron Summers
Authors
Summers, Ron Doubleday, Molly Ames, Ellie
Published in
Bird Study
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Diet of the introduced Gough Moorhen Gallinula comeri on Tristan da Cunha

Gough Moorhens Gallinula comeri were introduced to Tristan da Cunha in the 1950s, and are now numerous in lowland habitat, filling the ecological niche of the extinct Tristan Moorhen G. nesiotis. On their native Gough Island, moorhens have a varied diet, ranging from vegetation and fruits to scavenging and even predatory behaviour. Here, we examined the stomach contents of four birds on Tristan da Cunha to provide insight into their diet. Moorhens mostly ate vegetation, but we also recorded spiders (Arthropoda: Aranea), earthworms (Oligochaeta: Lumbricidae), remains of introduced rodents (Mus musculus), and anthropogenic debris. As on Gough Island, moorhens on Tristan have a generalist diet, and the impact of ecosystem restoration (and of the moorhens themselves) should be considered.

Date
13 September 2021
Authors
Bond, Alexander L McClelland, Gregory
Published in
Ornis Svecica
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track2KBA: An R package for identifying important sites for biodiversity from tracking data

Identifying important sites for biodiversity is vital for conservation and management. However, there is a lack of accessible, easily-applied tools that enable practitioners to delineate important sites for highly mobile species using established criteria. We introduce the R package ‘track2KBA’, a tool to identify important sites at the population level using tracking data from individual animals based on three key steps: (1) identifying individual core areas, (2) assessing population-level representativeness of the sample, and (3) quantifying spatial overlap among individuals and scaling up to the population. We describe package functionality and exemplify its application using tracking data from three taxa in contrasting environments: a seal, a marine turtle, and a migratory land bird. This tool facilitates the delineation of sites of ecological relevance for diverse taxa and provides output useful for assessing their importance to a population or species, as in the Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) Standard. As such, ‘track2KBA’ can contribute directly to conservation planning at global and regional levels.

Date
07 September 2021
RSPB Authors
Dr Steffen Oppel
Authors
Beal, Martin Oppel, Steffen Handley, Jonathan Pearmain, Elizabeth J Morera‐Pujol, Virginia Carneiro, Ana PB Davies, Tammy E Phillips, Richard A Taylor, Philip R Miller, Mark GR
Published in
Methods in Ecology and Evolution
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The potential contribution of terrestrial nature-based solutions to a national ‘net zero’ climate target

Many national governments have incorporated nature-based solutions (NbS) in their plans to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. However, uncertainties persist regarding both feasibility and consequences of major NbS deployment. Using the United Kingdom as a national-level case study, we examined the potential contribution of three terrestrial NbS: peatland restoration, saltmarsh creation and woodland creation.

While there is substantial political and societal interest in these three NbS, they also have strong potential for competition with other land uses, which will be a critical barrier to substantial deployment. We conducted a national mapping exercise to assess the potential area available for woodland creation. We then assessed the combined climate change mitigation potential to 2100 for the three NbS options under a range of ambition levels.

In line with the most ambitious targets examined, 2 Mha of land is potentially available for new woodland. However, climate change mitigation benefits of woodland are strongly dependent on management choices. By 2100, scenarios with a greater proportion of broadleaved woodlands outsequester non-native conifer plantations, which are limited by regular timber harvesting.

Peatland restoration offers the greatest mitigation per unit area, whilst the contribution from saltmarsh creation is limited by the small areas involved. Overall, the contribution of these NbS to the United Kingdom’s net zero emissions target is relatively modest. Even with the most ambitious targets considered here, by 2100, the total cumulative mitigation from the three NbS is equivalent to only 3 years' worth of UK emissions at current levels.

Policy implications. Major deployment of nature-based solutions (NbS) is possible in the United Kingdom but reaching ‘net zero’ primarily requires substantial and sustained reductions in fossil fuel use. However, facilitating these NbS at the national scale could offer many additional benefits for people and biodiversity. This demands that policy-makers commit to a UK-wide strategic approach that prioritises the ‘nature’ aspect of NbS. In the push to reach ‘net zero’, climate change mitigation should not be used to justify land management practices that threaten biodiversity ambitions.

Date
06 September 2021
RSPB Authors
Dr Tom Finch, Dr Richard Bradbury, Dr Graeme Buchanan, Dr Rob Field
Authors
Bradfer‐Lawrence, Tom Finch, Tom Bradbury, Richard B Buchanan, Graeme M Midgley, Andrew Field, Rob H
Published in
Journal of Applied Ecology
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Connecting the data landscape of long‐term ecological studies: the SPI‐Birds data hub

The integration and synthesis of the data in different areas of science is drastically slowed and hindered by a lack of standards and networking programmes. Long-term studies of individually marked animals are not an exception. These studies are especially important as instrumental for understanding evolutionary and ecological processes in the wild. Furthermore, their number and global distribution provides a unique opportunity to assess the generality of patterns and to address broad-scale global issues (e.g. climate change).
To solve data integration issues and enable a new scale of ecological and evolutionary research based on long-term studies of birds, we have created the SPI-Birds Network and Database (www.spibirds.org)—a large-scale initiative that connects data from, and researchers working on, studies of wild populations of individually recognizable (usually ringed) birds. Within year and a half since the establishment, SPI-Birds has recruited over 120 members, and currently hosts data on almost 1.5 million individual birds collected in 80 populations over 2,000 cumulative years, and counting.
SPI-Birds acts as a data hub and a catalogue of studied populations. It prevents data loss, secures easy data finding, use and integration and thus facilitates collaboration and synthesis. We provide community-derived data and meta-data standards and improve data integrity guided by the principles of Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR), and aligned with the existing metadata languages (e.g. ecological meta-data language).
The encouraging community involvement stems from SPI-Bird's decentralized approach: research groups retain full control over data use and their way of data management, while SPI-Birds creates tailored pipelines to convert each unique data format into a standard format. We outline the lessons learned, so that other communities (e.g. those working on other taxa) can adapt our successful model. Creating community-specific hubs (such as ours, COMADRE for animal demography, etc.) will aid much-needed large-scale ecological data integration

Date
01 September 2021
RSPB Authors
Dr Malcolm Burgess
Authors
Culina, Antica Adriaensen, Frank Bailey, Liam D Burgess, Malcolm D Charmantier, Anne Cole, Ella F Eeva, Tapio Matthysen, Erik Nater, Chloé R Sheldon, Ben C
Published in
Journal of Animal Ecology
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Timing, staging, speed and destination of migrant Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola breeding in Scotland

Apart from ringing recoveries and data on changes in mass at staging sites, little is known in detail about the migrations of the Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola, an Afro-Palearctic migrant whose numbers are declining. To obtain data on the timing and speed of migration, staging periods and locations, and their wintering grounds, we fitted geolocators to breeding Wood Sandpipers in Highland Scotland. The median last date on the breeding grounds was 25 June (range 18 Jun–2 Jul) for three birds over five southward migrations. Tracked birds staged for a median total of 15 days (range 11–17 days) at one or more sites in Scotland, Wales, England, France, Spain, Portugal and Mauritania before continuing south to Senegambia (i.e., Senegal and The Gambia), where the median first date was 14 July (range 3–23 Jul). The southward migration of ca. 5,000 km from Scotland took a median of 18 days (range 14–20.5 days), plus an estimated 1–3 days for the initial accumulation of fuel on the breeding grounds, thereby giving an average speed of migration of ca. 250 km per day. The wind direction and speed appeared to have no adverse effect on the southward migration. Tracked individuals spent the non-breeding season in Senegambia or Senegambia and southern Mauritania. The median last date in West Africa was 8 April (range 29 Mar–15 Apr). The birds staged for a median total of 18.5 days on the northward migration at one or more sites in Algeria, Morocco, Spain, France and England. Strong westerly winds are believed to have caused eastward drift over the Sahara during two northward migrations. The median first date back on the breeding grounds was 4 May (range 1–4 May). The northward migration took a median of 23.5 days (range 18.5–36 days) plus an estimated 8-day period for the initial fuelling in West Africa in order to cross the Sahara, so the average speed of migration (ca. 160 km per day) was slower than the southward migration.

Date
01 August 2021
RSPB Authors
Ian Cleasby
Authors
Summers, Ron Etheridge, Brian Christian, Nick Elkins, Norman Cleasby, Ian
Published in
Wader Study
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Population reinforcement and demographic changes needed to stabilise the population of a migratory vulture

One approach to stabilise small and declining populations is to breed individuals in captivity and release them into the wild to reinforce existing populations while working to reduce threats. Population reinforcement programmes require long-term commitments to be successful and can divert limited resources from other conservation measures. A rigorous evaluation whether reinforcement can stabilise a population is therefore essential to justify investments.

Many migratory species incur high mortality during their first migration, and releasing captive-bred birds at an older age may therefore benefit reinforcement programmes for migratory birds. We examine whether a small and declining population of a long-distance migratory raptor—the Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus—can be stabilised using population reinforcement that reduces mortality during the first migration. We used an integrated population model to evaluate realistic reinforcement and survival improvement scenarios to estimate how many captive-bred birds would need to be released to stabilise the population.

Survival probability of wild juveniles during their first year (0.296; 95% CI 0.234–0.384) was too low for a stable population (population growth rate 0.949; 95% CI 0.940–0.956), but captive-bred juveniles released in their second calendar year had improved survival (0.566; 95% CI 0.265–0.862) during their first year in the wild.

Reinforcement of 15 birds per year for 30 years was insufficient to achieve a neutral or positive population growth rate. However, reinforcement reduced the probability of extinction by 2049 from 48% without reinforcement to <1% if 12 or more birds were released every year for 30 years. A 6% increase in annual survival probability would likely lead to a stable population without any reinforcement.

Synthesis and applications. Although releasing captive-bred birds can reduce high juvenile mortality during first migration and assist in postponing local extinction, further improvements of survival in the wild are required to safeguard a migratory population where threats in the wild will persist for decades despite management.

Date
25 July 2021
RSPB Authors
Dr Steffen Oppel
Authors
Saravia, Victoria Bounas, Anastasios Arkumarev, Volen Kret, Elzbieta Dobrev, Vladimir Dobrev, Dobromir Kordopatis, Panagiotis Skartsi, Theodora Velevski, Metodija
Published in
Journal of Applied Ecology 90 (5): 1228-1238
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