Healthy & Biologically Diverse Seas Evidence Group: Evaluation and gap analysis of current and potential indicators for Seabirds and Waterbirds
(August 2010)
G.E. Austin, A.S.C.P. Cook, I.M.D. Maclean, P.I. Mitchell, M.M. Rehfisch & L.J. Wright

Summary

 

Indicators and individual species indices of seabirds and coastal waterbirds are reviewed as a contribution to the Healthy and Biologically Diverse Seas Evidence Group (HBDSEG) OSPAR / UKMMAS assessment framework.  This review focuses on those currently in use in policy and regulatory mechanisms and those which could be developed with little additional effort.

 

There are currently 10 indicators based on seabird and coastal waterbird populations in use, and nine in development.  The majority of the indicators that are currently in use are generated from data collected as part of the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) or the Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP), and are based on mean trends in the abundance or breeding success of a number of species at either a UK or regional scale.

 

All bird indicators scored very highly in the scientific evaluation because data are collected and analysed according to strict, well established protocols producing accurate indicators in terms of their accuracy in measuring variation in bird numbers (although not all indicators are able to attribute these changes to a specific pressure or activity).  Furthermore there are long-term datasets for most indicators.  Waterbird indicators based on WeBS data were rated as good value in the economic evaluation because these data are largely collected by volunteers, whose time is costed as free.  Seabird indicators based on SMP data were still relatively good value, but tended to be rated as moderate value in the economic evaluation because the SMP relies more heavily on professional fieldworkers, although it also has some input from volunteers.

 

Most bird indicators in use or in development are indicators of state, and are not good indicators of single pressures, activities or their impacts because they include a wide range of species, each of which is affected by multiple pressures and activities.  However, they tend to be good indicators of ecosystem structure and function because their association with a large number of habitats, their sensitivity to environmental change and their relationships with other species means that they often reflect changes in other taxa, and in ecological patterns generally.

 

 
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A4, softback, 34 pp
ISBN 978-1-86107-618-2
 
Please cite as: G.E. Austin, A.S.C.P. Cook, I.M.D. Maclean, P.I. Mitchell, M.M. Rehfisch & L.J. Wright, (August 2010), Healthy & Biologically Diverse Seas Evidence Group: Evaluation and gap analysis of current and potential indicators for Seabirds and Waterbirds, A4, softback, 34 pp, ISBN 978-1-86107-618-2