Predicting the impacts of disturbance on shorebird mortality using a behaviour-based model

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Authors: West, A.D., Goss-Custard, J.D., Stillman, R.A., Caldow, R.W.G. and McGrorty, S.

Journal: Biological Conservation

Volume: 106

Issue: 3

Pages: 319-328

ISSN: 0006-3207

DOI: 10.1016/S0006-3207(01)00257-9

To assess the long-term effects of human disturbance on birds, ways of predicting its impacts on individual fitness and population size must be found. In this paper we use a behaviour-based model to predict the impact of human disturbance on oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) on their intertidal feeding grounds in the Exe estuary in winter. The model predicted that, for the same overall area disturbed, numerous small disturbances would be more damaging than fewer, larger disturbances. When the time and energy costs arising from disturbance were included, disturbance could be more damaging than permanent habitat loss. Preventing disturbance during late winter, when feeding conditions were harder, practically eliminated its predicted population consequences. Although disturbance can cause increased mortality, it was not predicted to do so at the levels currently occurring in the Exe estuary. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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