Latest Research

Great Crested Grebe, photograph by Sam White

Riverine birds under threat from climate change?

Current climate change models predict that, by 2050, river flows will decrease in summer and increase in winter, with extreme flow events becoming more frequent. Two recent papers suggest how river birds might respond to these changes and highlight the species most at risk.

Cotton grass by Anne Carrington-Cotton

Testing compensatory habitat mitigation for biodiversity

Management “prescriptions” to mitigate effects of habitat damage and loss caused by development are often used as conservation tools. However, the effectiveness of such prescriptions is not routinely assessed. An area of protected Scottish moorland was managed to mitigate effects of habitat damage by mining development in this and an adjacent area. In a 10-year study, BTO researchers monitored the responses of breeding bird populations to the chosen management prescriptions. Most species failed to respond positively, probably due to insufficient control of bird and mammal predators. The effectiveness of mitigation management prescriptions must be assessed to ensure the successful delivery of their objectives.

Burkina Faso, photograph by Chris Orsman

Migratory bird populations linked to African, Mediterranean and UK weather

Many migratory birds that winter in Africa have declined in number in recent years. Iconic species under threat include Cuckoo and Nightingale. The mechanisms behind these declines must be understood in order to direct conservation efforts to where they will have the biggest impact. Recent BTO research has highlighted the importance of African rainfall, spring Mediterranean and UK breeding season temperatures on the subsequent breeding success and abundance of British summer visitors.

Yellowhammer, photograph by Jill Pakenham

Understanding drivers of population change

Identifying the drivers of population change is a key part of the conservation process, as it provides an evidence-based focus for conservation efforts. Recent research by the BTO has brought together data from several volunteer-based surveys to model the demographic drivers of population change for a suite of common bird species. This approach also delivers a powerful method that can be applied to rarer species, for which data are less readily available.

Shelduck, photograph by Chris Mills

BTO work contributes to inner Thames Airport decision

BTO work shows that over 21,000 protected waterbirds would be affected by the construction of an airport in the inner Thames Estuary, and that achieving the necessary habitat mitigation and compensation would be extremely challenging.