Wetland and marine

Puffin  (Derek Belsey, Cliff Reddick)

Puffin  (Derek Belsey, Cliff Reddick)

The inland, coastal and marine waters of the UK all hold internationally important bird populations. The BTO undertakes a broad range of research and monitoring work on the waterbird and seabird populations that use these important but dynamic environments, improving understanding of the status of some of the country’s most important conservation sites.

In our role as a partner in the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) we organise 3,000 volunteers to systematically monitor the populations of UK’s non-breeding waterbirds. We are also a partner in the Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) that monitors the populations and breeding success of the UK’s breeding seabirds. Information from these schemes is used to determine the condition of sites protected under domestic and European legislation for their important waterbird and seabird features. Our co-ordination of the Wetland Bird Survey enables us to develop new methods that help gain scientific understanding of waterbird population dynamics, while we also aim to improve monitoring coverage of all of the UK’s breeding and non-breeding waterbirds and seabirds.  Members of our team are also currently working on developing a national sea-watching scheme to further our knowledge of seabird movements and distribution away from breeding colonies.

Our research work aims to investigate the key drivers of waterbird and seabird population change, which include climate change and renewable energy schemes, changes to and loss of habitat, disturbance and introduced non-native species.

For further information on wetland and marine issues contact a member of BTO staff;

Niall Burton (Head of Wetland and Marine), Graham Austin (Senior Research Ecologist), Liz Humphreys (Research Ecologist, BTO Scotland), or Chris Thaxter (Research Ecologist)

Recent Wetland and Marine research

Avocet - Amy Lewis

Wavering Waterbirds

Protected sites are assigned based on population statistics for vulnerable and endangered species. This new study using WeBS data shows that changes in population size can affect local abundance, and thus influence whether or not key targets are met for site protection.
Oystercatcher - John Harding

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. 

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.