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Latest Research in Scotland
Waders in decline in Strathallan, Scotland
The breeding populations of many different wader species are in decline across the globe, and there is an urgent need for information on how such changes in land management, particularly within farmland, may affect breeding waders. This study by a long-term BTO volunteer explores wader decline in Strathallan, Scotland over a period of 25 years.
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.
Scotland has a large number of offshore sites where marine renewable developments (including wind, wave and tidal-stream installations) are proposed or under construction.The effect of these developments on marine ecosystems is not yet properly understood. Scotland is home to over 60% of the world’s breeding Great Skuas, and principal colonies are protected under the European Birds Directive. A new study led by the Environmental Research Institute and involving the BTO, has examined the potential effects of marine renewable developments on Great Skuas, using long-life GPS tags to reveal birds' movements throughout the breeding season and characterise their use of the marine environment.
Great Skua movements did not greatly overlap with areas of the sea where marine renewable developments are proposed. The largest overlap was with wave power installations, which are thought to pose a low risk to this species. However, the degree of overlap varied throughout the season and between colonies, with birds whose breeding attempts failed ranging over a larger area of sea than birds that were incubating or caring for chicks. Historical records of nest attendance also indicated that Great Skuas now travel further during the breeding season than in the past. Taken together, these findings show that assessing the potential impact of marine renewable developments on Great Skuas is complex. This long-lived species uses different parts of the marine environment at different times of the year, and might be flexible in choosing where to go depending on prevailing conditions. Tracking can help to assess the effect of planned marine renewable developments, but long term studies in conjunction with thorough monitoring are essential to fully understand the conservation implications for this and other seabird species.