Multi-scale habitats

 Dawn Balmer


The BTO has a long history of research on issues specific to particular habitats, such as farmland and woodland. We investigate causes of population change, habitat effects on abundance and demography, design and testing of management measures, interspecific interactions and the details of species’ ecologies. This work ranges from national-scale analyses of the Trust’s large-scale, long-term datasets to specific, intensive field studies and has been supported by government, private trusts, industry, research councils and BTO appeals. We employ traditional field approaches from the territory to the landscape scale (including bespoke volunteer surveys), technological solutions (such as radio-tracking and nest cameras) and state-of-the-art analytical techniques. Our collaborators include other NGOs and charities, several universities and overseas bodies working in similar fields. We publish our research in a range of fora, including the top ecological and bird journals (such as Journal of Applied Ecology and Ibis) and our research has contributed directly to national policy development.

In the future, we aim to continue working in these areas, but to expand our work in habitats such as urban areas and uplands. We will work to integrate other taxa, other countries and disciplines like socio-economics further into our research, forging new collaborations as necessary. We will also work to bridge the gap between intensive, territory-scale research and patterns across whole landscapes. We expect to continue to analyse the BTO’s datasets in innovative ways and to develop new field approaches to integrate new technology with classical survey, ringing and demographic recording techniques.

Our research priorities are:

  • To investigate fundamental ecological questions concerning interactions between habitats in mosaics at different scales and how they affect birds;
  • To work towards a better understanding of the ecological mechanisms underlying spatial and temporal patterns in bird abundance;
  • To build new inter-disciplinary collaborations, especially with social scientists, to add the human dimension to our bird research;
  • To conduct reactive and proactive research relevant to current and future changes in various landscapes, considering areas such as agricultural and energy policy, urbanization, afforestation and climate change mitigation.

For further information please contact Gavin Siriwardena

Recent research on Habitat

Starlings by Allan Drewitt

Shaping positive engagements with urban birds

There is growing evidence that interactions with birds in our towns and cities can provide people with feelings of being connected with nature; such interactions can also have positive effects of human well-being. Within the field of ecosystem services such forms of benefit are known as ‘cultural services’. However, not all interactions between people and birds are necessarily positive. Birds are sometimes responsible for disease transmission, for the contamination of water sources, for aggression, damage to property and for causing unwelcome noise and smells. These interactions are known as ‘disservices’.
Long-eared Bat, photograph byJez Blackburn

The impact of new housing on bat populations

New research from the BTO has examined the effects of projected housing developments on bats, using data citizen science data collected by volunteers taking part in the Norfolk Bat Survey.
Curlew chicks, photograph by Hugh Insley

Curlews and godwits - the vanishing tribe

New collaborative research led by the BTO investigates reasons for recent losses in curlews and godwits worldwide and identifies conservation measures which could be put in place to halt the declines.