Novel research will unravel Europe-wide patterns of bird migration and distribution

No.:  2015-24
June 2015

The EuroBirdPortal (EBP) project and its demo viewer (www.eurobirdportal.org) will be launched tomorrow in Brussels as part of Green Week 2015, the annual conference on European environment policy organised by the European Commission.

Swallow by John Harding

The EBP project is a new initiative of the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) through which  European on-line bird recording schemes will collaborate to research European-wide seasonal distributional changes, migratory patterns, and migration timing of  birds and to understand how these patterns are changing over time. EBP data for Britain and Ireland come from the BirdTrack project (www.birdtrack.net) which allows birdwatchers to record their observations online and to contribute to conservation science.

Gabriel Gargallo, EBP Project Coordinator, commented, "The EBP project will allow a better knowledge of the patterns of bird distribution in space and time across Europe and, thus, help to properly address several issues of high concern in relation to bird conservation and management."

Unlike more traditional monitoring projects, which focus on structured data collection, online bird recording portals aim to obtain year-round data from the relatively unstructured but intensive and widespread activities of birdwatchers. However, the vast amount of data contained in these portals and the sheer scale of coverage offer great possibilities for research on the temporal and spatial distribution of birds across large geographical areas. To deliver the full potential of these possibilities, the EBP objective is to create a common data repository and to promote protocols and mechanisms for data sharing and analyses at a European scale.

To help attain these goals the EBP project already includes 29 partners running online bird recording schemes in 21 European countries. The partnership involves biodiversity data centres and key ornithological institutions in their respective countries, enabling the collection of high quality monitoring data from tens of thousands of volunteer birdwatchers and turning this information in sound science.

Dr Stephen Baillie, Senior Research Fellow at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), commented, “The timing and patterns of bird migration across Europe are changing rapidly in relation to climate and other environmental factors. Thanks to over 100,000 observers from 21 countries, submitting in the region of 30 million bird records every year, this new project will allow us to study those changes and to identify improved conservation strategies.”

He added, “Bird migration is one of the great spectacles of the natural world. This new web portal provides novel visualisations of the patterns and speed of bird migration across Europe, which will be of interest to many people, from dedicated birdwatchers to those who simply look forward to the arrival of the first Swallows each spring. As the project develops we plan to add many more species and to provide migration maps in close to real time.”

Thanks to the collaboration with the leading location intelligence and data visualisation platform, CartoDB (www.cartodb.com), we have been able to layer multiple data sets spatially and chronologically, transforming information into great insights. As a result, the EBP demo viewer (www.eurobirdportal.org) will allow free access to thousands of amazing animated distribution maps that highlight the scope and potential of the EBP project and its future developments.         

The EBP demo viewer will initially depict animated weekly distribution maps of 15 different bird species for four years (2010-2013), but during the next six months it will progressively reach 50 species and include data from 2014. Users will be able to select two animated maps of any species; year and type can be selected to be shown simultaneously for direct comparison (more than 1.5 million different map combinations will be available to choose from by the end of the year).  See teaser at https://youtu.be/-7KVhyt7Rsw

 Currently, EBP efforts are focused on displaying data in real time and on developing modelling approaches that will allow robust analyses of changes in distribution patterns with respect to climate, land-use and other relevant factors.   

Notes for Editors

  1. The EBCC is an association under Dutch Law of like-minded expert ornithologists co-operating in a range of ways to improve bird monitoring and atlas work and thereby inform and improve the management and conservation of bird populations in Europe. For more information see www.ebcc.info.
  2. The 2015 edition of Green Week, the biggest annual conference on European environment policy, is taking place from 3 to 5 June at The Egg Conference Centre, in Brussels. This year’s theme is nature and biodiversity. For more information see www.greenweek2015.eu.
  3. The EBP demo viewer (www.eurobirdportal.org) will be open to the public on Friday 5th June, at 14:00 (CEST), 13:00 (BST).
  4. The EBP will be the perfect companion to the work developed by the other two main projects undertaken by the EBCC: the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS) and the new European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA2). PECBMS, a joint initiative with BirdLife International, monitors breeding population trends across Europe using large-scale and long-term common breeding bird surveys and develops indicators of the general state of nature, while EBBA2 will produce a precise snapshot of the breeding distribution of all European bird species for the whole continent and for a specific time window (2013–2017). The EBP project will complement PECBMS and EBBA2 by focussing on the study of continental-wide seasonal changes in bird distribution as well as those temporal changes taking place too fast as to be properly tracked by more traditional monitoring projects. Moreover, the EBP will promote the use of simple, standardised bird recording protocols so as to improve the quality of the results that can be produced using these data.
  5. The information in EuroBirdPortal from the UK and the Republic of Ireland originates from the online bird recording system BirdTrack (www.birdtrack.net), which is organised by the BTO on behalf of RSPB, BirdWatch Ireland, Scottish Ornithologists' Club and Welsh Ornithological Society. BirdTrack freely allows anyone to submit, store and share their bird observations. To date, over 30 million observations have been provided via BirdTrack by tens of thousands of birdwatchers.
  6. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations. www.bto.org

Contact Details

Dr Stephen Baillie
(Senior Research Fellow, BTO )

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: stephen.baillie [at] bto.org

Dr Andy Musgrove
(Associate Director - Monitoring, BTO )

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: andy.musgrove [at] bto.org

Mike Toms
(Associate Director - Communications, BTO)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: press [at] bto.org

Nick Moran
(BirdTrack Organiser, BTO)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: nick.moran [at] bto.org

EBP
Gabriel Gargallo
EBP Project Coordination

ICO - Catalan Ornithological Institute
Museu de Ciències Naturals, Passeig Picasso s/n, 08003 Barcelona
Office: 00 34 93 458 78 93
Mobile: 00 34 680 560 184 (anytime)
Email: anella [at] ornitologia.org

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference 2015-24

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