Journal article Open Access

A counterfactual approach to measure the impact of wet grassland conservation on UK breeding bird populations

Sean Jellesmark; Malcolm Ausden; Tim M. Blackburn; Richard D. Gregory; Mike Hoffmann; Dario Massimino; Piero Visconti


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    <dct:title>A counterfactual approach to measure the impact of wet grassland conservation on UK breeding bird populations</dct:title>
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    <dcat:keyword>Counterfactual, impact evaluation, wetland birds, wetland conservation, causal inference, conservation effectiveness</dcat:keyword>
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    <dct:description>&lt;p&gt;Abstract&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;Wet grassland wader populations in the United Kingdom have experienced severe declines over&lt;br&gt; the last three decades. To help mitigate these declines, the Royal Society for the Protection of&lt;br&gt; Birds (RSPB) has restored and managed lowland wet grassland nature reserves to benefit these&lt;br&gt; and other species. However, the impact that these reserves have on bird population trends has&lt;br&gt; not been experimentally evaluated, as appropriate control populations do not readily exist. In&lt;br&gt; this study, we compare population trends from 1994 - 2018 for five bird species of conservation&lt;br&gt; concern that breed on these nature reserves with counterfactual trends using matched breeding&lt;br&gt; bird survey observations. Our results showed positive effects of conservation interventions for&lt;br&gt; all four wader species that these reserves aim to benefit: Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), Redshank&lt;br&gt; (Tringa totanus), Curlew (Numenius arquata) and Snipe (Gallinago gallinago). There was no&lt;br&gt; positive effect of conservation interventions on reserves for the passerine, Yellow Wagtail&lt;br&gt; (Motacilla flava). We compared reserve trends with three different counterfactuals, based on&lt;br&gt; different scenarios of how reserve populations could have developed in the absence of&lt;br&gt; conservation, and found that reserve trends performed better regardless of the counterfactual&lt;br&gt; used. Our approach using monitoring data to produce valid counterfactual controls is a broadly&lt;br&gt; applicable method allowing large-scale evaluation of conservation impact.&lt;/p&gt;</dct:description>
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