Predicting oystercatcher food requirements on the Dee Estuary. A report to Natural Resources Wales
Publisher: Bournemouth University
In UK estuaries conflicts have routinely occurred between economic and conservation interests regarding shellfish such as cockles Cerastoderma edule and mussels Mytilus edulis. The harvest of these species is economically important, but shellfish also constitute the main overwinter food supply of the oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus. In this report we use a simplified spreadsheet model to predict the overwinter food requirements of oystercatchers in the Dee Estuary and compare the predictions of this model with those of an individual-based model which has been used to advise the setting of Total Allowable Catch in the Dee Estuary over recent years.
The models are based on the energy requirements of the birds and the energy value of their shellfish food. The spreadsheet model predicts the amount of shellfish required to maintain high survival rates within the oystercatcher population. The individual-based model predicts how the survival rate within the oystercatcher population is related to the amount of shellfish food and the amount removed by shellfishing. Although more complicated, the individual-based model represents the system in a more realistic way and can simulate specific shellfishing scenarios.
The models produced relatively similar predictions, especially when it was assumed that birds fed on upshore and terrestrial food in addition to cockles. As the biomass of cockles has declined since 2008, the models predicted that the amount required by the birds became close to the total available in 2012. The cockle biomass during 2013 was lower than that during 2012 and the spreadsheet model predicted that the birds required virtually all of the cockle stocks available.