Over the past 25 years wading bird numbers have fallen dramatically in Scotland, with some species numbers being halved over this time period. Researchers from the James Hutton Institute are aiming to combat this decline by identifying locations where these iconic birds have the best chance to once again thrive.
Experts believe a key factor in the severe drop in wading bird numbers is down to habitat loss or alteration. The ever-changing landscape, along with the threat from general predators, has resulted in a lack of breeding.
Species such as lapwings, oystercatchers and curlews could be lost forever if drastic measures are not put in place. The project Working for Waders was formed to promote collaborative conservation efforts and resources. Through habitat management, wader sensitive farming practices and predator control, it is hoped wader decline can be halted or reversed.
By utilising Breeding Bird Atlas data, researchers from the James Hutton Institute hope to assist Working for Waders by mapping the wider landscape and identifying where wader populations have the best capacity to recover.
These maps display hot and cold spots, showing clearly changes in wader populations across Scotland. Dr Scott Newey, an applied ecologist at the Institute, said: “In collaboration with the British Trust for Ornithology and other Working for Waders partners, we have produced maps to help identify areas where conservation measures can be best targeted. The wader maps enable land managers and landowners to focus conservation activities to where they are likely to be most effective, i.e. where there are still viable populations, or suitable areas of habitat surrounded by areas with good populations of waders. WaderMap is about letting people see where there are current wader conservation projects and to encourage landowners/managers to work collaboratively to establish ‘clusters’ of wader conservation projects.”