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Ben Thornes

Effects of environmental change on shorebirds

Tuesday 15th July 2014

Modelling the effect of environmental change on shorebirds: A case study on Poole Harbour, UK.

An individuals-based model, MORPH, was used to assess the quality of Poole Harbour, UK, for five overwintering shorebirds: dunlin (Calidris alpina), redshank (Tringa totanus), black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) and curlew (Numenius arquata).

The quality of each site and the effect of environmental change were measured as predicted overwinter survival. Results from the model showed that Dunlin had the highest prey biomass densities and were the least likely to be affected by reductions in their food supply, lower temperatures or loss of terrestrial habitats. Black-tailed godwits and curlew had the lowest prey biomass densities and were the most likely to be affected by reductions in their food supply, lower temperatures and loss of terrestrial habitats. All five shorebird species were seriously affected by simulated sea-level rise.

The study identified conservation issues for the Poole Harbour SPA, such as: the relatively low densities of larger size classes of polychaete worms ‘ the main prey of the black-tailed godwit and curlew; the importance of terrestrial habitats (such as suitable fields) for the larger shorebirds, i.e. the black-tailed godwit and curlew; and the effect of sea-level rise or sediment dynamics on intertidal exposure times ‘ intertidal exposure times in Poole Harbour are already brief and likely to be reduced further still by sea-level rise or sediment loss.

To read the full article click here.

Find out more about Professor Richard Stillman here.

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