Understanding and predicting the likely consequences of anthropogenic disturbance on species and ecosystems is a major prerequisite of achieving the sustainable use of natural resources. It is also a key element in the management of sites with statutory designation. During planning and decision-making processes involving potential disturbance issues, land managers and responsible authorities are often required to take account of the needs and views of a diversity of site user groups. The effects and impacts of disturbance can occur over a range of spatial and temporal scales, and research into these consequences must address this problem. This paper provides (1) an overview of the field and analytical methodologies contributing to the development of an integrated method for collecting multi-scale bird, resource and disturbance data in freshwater systems, and (2) an overview of the drivers and need for such data in sustainable resource management. Whilst the results of the bird–habitat–disturbance modelling arising from these data will be published elsewhere, the types of information that will be generated are illustrated and their potential use within planning and decision-making processes discussed.