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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    <subfield code="c">2021-01-07</subfield>
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    <subfield code="a">&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;</subfield>
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    <subfield code="u">RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL</subfield>
    <subfield code="a">Malcolm Ausden</subfield>
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    <subfield code="u">Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, University College London, London, United Kingdom</subfield>
    <subfield code="a">Tim M. Blackburn</subfield>
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    <subfield code="a">Richard D. Gregory</subfield>
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    <subfield code="u">Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, London, United Kingdom</subfield>
    <subfield code="a">Mike Hoffmann</subfield>
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    <subfield code="u">British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, IP24 2PU, United Kingdom</subfield>
    <subfield code="a">Dario Massimino</subfield>
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    <subfield code="u">International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria</subfield>
    <subfield code="a">Piero Visconti</subfield>
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    <subfield code="a">Sean Jellesmark</subfield>
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    <subfield code="a">eng</subfield>
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  <datafield tag="653" ind1=" " ind2=" ">
    <subfield code="a">Counterfactual, impact evaluation, wetland birds, wetland conservation, causal inference, conservation effectiveness</subfield>
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  <datafield tag="024" ind1=" " ind2=" ">
    <subfield code="a">10.1111/cobi.13692</subfield>
    <subfield code="2">doi</subfield>
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    <subfield code="a">A counterfactual approach to measure the impact of wet grassland conservation on UK breeding bird populations</subfield>
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