Integrated population monitoring of breeding birds in Britain and Ireland

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Abstract

Effective wildlife monitoring schemes identify changes in population variables that require conservation action. This must be based on an understanding of normal patterns of population variability. Monitoring schemes ideally provide data on the stages of the life cycle at which changes are taking place and indications of the probable causes of change.

The Integrated Population Monitoring Programme of the British Trust for Ornithology aims to fulfil these requirements for British birds. It encompasses existing BTO projects that measure population size, productivity and survival rates, principally the Common Birds Census, Waterways Bird Survey, Nest Record Scheme, Constant Effort (mist-netting) Sites Scheme and the Ringing Scheme. Integrated analyses of long-term BTO data are being used to study the population dynamics of individual species. Relationships established through such analyses will be used to construct models that will predict population performance, and against which observed performance can be compared.

A simple application of Integrated Population Monitoring is presented using data for the Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos), a species which has been declining throughout most of Britain since the mid 1970s. No reduction in reproductive performance was detected and the decline appears to have been brought about through reduced survival rates. Factors responsible for much of this decline were identified from a multiple regression model involving winter weather conditions.

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