Abstracts from Ecosystem Services: do we need birds?
ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: DO WE NEED BIRDS
BOU 2012 ANNUAL CONFERENCE
UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER | 3 – 5 APRIL 2012
Birds and nature conservation: do we need ecosystem services?
RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Beds SG19 2DL, UK
The case for the conservation of birds, and indeed all of nature, can be made in relation to human needs on several 'levels'.
There are a set of values and moral beliefs held by many people across societies and cultures. These span the intrinsic right of species to exist, the responsibility of humans as stewards of the natural environment, and the ability to coexist with nature as a test of civilised human society and lifestyle. Evidence of this is the mass membership of organisations such as the RSPB, which in turn is the UK partner of BirdLife International, the world's largest civil society partnership for nature conservation. This moral rationale for conservation underpins the national and international legislation that has helped to prevent the current biodiversity crisis from being even worse.
There are also anthropocentric arguments for conservation. These utilitarian arguments do not replace or undermine the moral reasons to conserve biodiversity. For birds, then, the second reason for conservation is their direct impact on our quality of life through the cultural services they provide. For instance, singing skylarks, the return of migrants that signals the change of seasons, or the spectacle of flocking knot or starling at nature reserves and elsewhere. This has implications for the economic valuation of ecosystem services, because appropriation of cultural services is heavily influenced by the spatial distribution of the human population.
The third reason for conservation is the role of ecosystems in our life-support systems. Birds themselves provide some provisioning and regulating services, from the pollination of crops by families such as hummingbirds to the important social role of scavenging vultures in Asia. Bird conservation activity supports wider ecosystem service delivery, and the RSPB is increasingly leveraging funding for ecosystem services to deliver more biodiversity conservation.
Moreover, conservation is moving from a polarisation of effort in protected areas and the wider countryside to a more integrated landscape-scale conservation approach. This aligns with the need to safeguard ecosystem services at landscape or catchment scales, over which the agents of the service (eg pollinators) or the service itself (clean water) flow.
The ecosystem services concept is being embraced by many actors, from conservationists to economists and politicians.
The economic valuation of ecosystem services is a powerful organising concept for nature conservation strategies. However, while the ecosystem services argument may be necessary (especially in a climate of economic austerity), it is not a sufficient basis for the rationale for nature conservation. While biodiversity and ecosystems can be shown to provide long-term benefit to the economy, there remain specific resource competition conflicts in which critical natural capital can be lost.
To continue to conserve nature, whether for its useful properties, its impact on our quality of life, or just because one feels there is a moral need to do so, there will continue to be a need for high levels of social and intellectual capital within a society, and strong governance capable of regulating within environmental limits.
Dr Mike Clarke was appointed Chief Executive of the RSPB in 2010, having been their Operations Director since 1998. He has worked for the RSPB for more than 20 years, initially in South East England tackling a wide range of land use issues. Prior to the RSPB, he worked for the Nature Conservancy Council in Hampshire and the Chief Scientists Team, where he contributed to the Geological Conservation Review and the National Vegetation Classification, and carried out research with the Soil Survey of England and Wales. His PhD was on the ecology of the New Forest.
Cultural services of birds
J.H. Fanshawe, J. Birch, N.J. Collar, A.J. Stattersfield, and D.H.L Thomas
BirdLife International, Wellbrook Court, Girton Road, Cambridge CB3 0NA, UK
The extraordinary biological diversity of birds worldwide is, predictably, mirrored by an equally diverse response in human culture. Building from an established foundation in species and sites conservation, BirdLife International has, in recent years, begun to explore ways of engaging wider cultural values in its conservation programmes.
In a global context, this makes sound sense for a number of reasons. Although the biodiversity crisis is well-known, and very well-documented (not least by the 1,360 experts who contributed to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA)); the environment and conservation movement continues to fail to win arguments in the face of pressing political and economic reasoning. Poor accounting of the real value of nature, and of ecosystem services, undermines conservation. Rapid urbanisation is increasingly removing people from access to 'wild nature' and leading to a disconnectedness which, in terms of voter apathy, very likely means a growing shortfall in support for nature conservation initiatives.
In this paper, we briefly outline our strategy for work on understanding, assessing, and monitoring ecosystem services, particularly a collaborative study with the BirdLife Partner, Bird Conservation Nepal, which is developing methodologies, and toolkits, and testing them at three pilot sites. This work brings together science, policy, and BirdLife's communities and livelihoods initiatives, with a strong focus on delivering innovative approaches at local level.
Celebrating local cultural distinctiveness is vital to the emerging grassroots movement within BirdLife, which is enhanced through work on our Local Empowerment Programme, and a growing network of so-called Local Conservation Groups. Clearly, birds influence cultural values from a bewilderingly diverse array of perspectives, from the canon of English poetry, to the mascots of Latin American football teams, but the common ground is specific cultural circumstances. Understanding that lies at the heart of effective action on the ground.
Moreover, at wider scales, cultural responses enable a proactive dialogue with audiences, including urban audiences, for who more science-based approaches are often alien. In many instances, these values are intangible, rooted in history, tradition, folklore, faith, and a wide range of arts 'practices', that are difficult to 'commodify', and hence overlooked. Yet, major biodiversity loss can, as in the case of precipitous South Asian vulture declines, have a real cultural impact - in that instance in funereal practices at the Parsi Towers of Silence.
In an effort to explore the potential for engaging cultural values, BirdLife has initiated a series of interdisciplinary collaborations with authors, musicians, and visual artists, embedding them alongside thematic programmes, such as our work on flyways, albatrosses, and preventing extinctions. In the latter part of the paper, we will describe some of these collaborations, concluding with the initiative Ghosts of Gone Birds, through which, with film-maker, Ceri Levy, and creative agent, Chris Aldhous, some 80 artists, authors, and musicians, were each challenged to produce work on the theme of an extinct bird species, and so to raise funds and awareness for the Partnership's programme on Preventing Extinctions.
John Fanshawe is a Senior Strategy Adviser at the BirdLife Global Secretariat in Cambridge, where he is coordinating an emerging programme on birds, culture and conservation. He has worked for BirdLife (formerly for ICBP) since 1987, both in the UK, and East Africa.
Bird conservation in an ecosystem context
Whatever we might say about current commitment, there is a stronger vision for nature conservation in Government than for some decades. The Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP) in England, the refreshed biodiversity strategy Biodiversity 2020 and perhaps, most importantly, the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, all published within the last year, inform our view of what Government want to see. In addition, they continue to openly support the findings of the Lawton Review, Making Space for Nature as demonstrated by the recent announcement of Nature Improvement Areas. The concept of valuing nature, in ways which establish its importance in all aspects of society is a critical feature. Embracing the ecosystem services concept will be an important element of how we evolve what we do and the way we do it. We will need to work through concerns about the challenge to the traditional species-led approach, and realise significant opportunities. Norris & Mace argue persuasively for this in TREE, 2011.
BTO research and survey is contributing in three ways, looking at:
- What ecosystem services are provided by birds?
- Where and how birds can act as indirect indicators of service provision.
- What the consequences are for birds of managing for ecosystem services.
There is plenty of evidence, and an abundance of convincing stories that resonate with the public, about the cultural services provided by birds. We need to strengthen the understanding of how birds and broader biodiversity contribute to regulating and provisioning services, and this needs to be underpinned both by review and original research. Cultural values of birds are complex – for example very different for nature conservationists and birdwatchers who tend to value rarity, and for the public who often value the common-place of daily life, or what they see on television. BTO experience of the contribution of volunteers is significant.
Are birds potential indicators of the provision of non-bird ecosystem services? This has yet to be fully studied. It is important to look at this issue at the right scale, where birds respond to landscapes at a large spatial scale such as river catchments, large land-holdings, for example in the uplands, and perhaps parishes. Relationships are best investigated around measures of bird abundance, and in addition BTO will investigate patterns within data from Bird Atlas 2007-11.
The consequences of managing for cultural value will cover only some, mainly rare, species. Management for provisioning and regulating ecosystem services in the wider countryside will tend to miss rarer species and will require an assessment of how to look after biodiversity that falls outside the benefits of this approach.
This BTO perspective on bird conservation in an ecosystem context will look at how volunteer effort in biodiversity recording reflects strong cultural values, and demonstrates a significant resource contribution to society's environmental obligations. Research examples illustrate the BTO's contribution to addressing the three questions posed at the start of the paper, and points to where evidence is needed from further research and survey.
In conclusion, it is argued that now is the time for the conservation sector to get serious about supporting an ecosystem approach, and the potential for engaging other sectors through the appropriate valuation of biodiversity in terms of those services that it provides.
Ecosystem Services and faith-based bird conservation
A Rocha International, 3, Hooper Street, Cambridge CB1 2NZ, UK
A Rocha is an international Christian conservation organisation founded in 1983 with national member groups working in 19 countries. Field projects frequently focus on bird research and conservation and there is a history of long-term involvement with the local communities in the areas where we work. Among our national member organisations the concept of ecosystem services has met with a wide range of responses. Many of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment criteria are helpful as indicators of 'success! and align well with Christian concerns for human well-being within a flourishing environment. However arguments for conservation are made in very different local or national contexts. As we work to involve Christians around the world in conservation we encounter a spectrum of views that runs from 'dominionists! who argue that nature's only meaning is to meet human needs to 'transcendentalists! who seem to believe that the earth would be better off without people. Both extremes have their secular counterparts who in turn draw more deeply on these faith traditions than they perhaps realise.
Christians and others note that the concept of 'ecosystem services! is merely a particular expression of utilitarianism and so share doubts about its validity as a sufficient ethical framework. The ecosystem services approach will inevitably be drawn into the arguments that have raged ever since Bentham and Mill first proposed 'the greatest human happiness! as a primary reference for ethics over two hundred years ago. Even so, A Rocha teams involved in bird conservation programmes do see the need to make the conservation case in ways that make sense within the limitations of utilitarian criteria. But as we do so, we note that the criteria of 'human benefit! are of widely varying importance, depending on context and meaning. In the very poor subsistence communities where we work in Kenya or Ghana, it is literally a matter of life and death that human benefits are carefully calculated as conservation decisions are made. By contrast the 'human benefits! claimed for the local community by a property developer who was intent on destroying the Alvor wetlands in Portugal were simply financial, and so were in an entirely different register.
Christian environmental convictions both endorse and relativise the idea of ecosystem services. The foundational biblical idea is that 'The earth is the Lord's!. While people are blessed by creation and given all good things to use, the benefit that people derive from the earth lies firmly within God's intention for his wider creation to flourish. We are given responsibility for biodiversity, which is seen as an expression of God's wisdom. But a profound service that ecosystems offer is their worship of the Creator through their very being, and how they witness to the character of a loving God as people discover their complexity, wonder, power and beauty. These biblical perspectives are of great practical significance in the global south where both biodiversity and Christian groups exist in profusion and where both are dealing with the devastating environmental consequences of utilitarian commercial logic.
Peter Harris co-founded A Rocha www.arocha.org in 1983 when he moved with his family to from an Anglican parish in Liverpool to establish a field study centre and bird observatory on the Alvor estuary in Portugal. In 1995 the work was given over to national leadership and he moved to France where together with national colleagues he oversaw the establishment of two other centres while travelling to resource the growing global movement of Christians active in nature conservation. A Rocha field projects are now operational in nineteen countries worldwide. The story is told in Peter's books Under the Bright Wings (Regent College Publishing, 2000), and Kingfisher's Fire (Monarch, 2008).
From species to systems: ecosystem services resulting from bird conservation
Stewart Clarke, Phil Grice, John Hopkins & Ruth Waters
Natural England, Touthill Close, City Road, Peterborough, PE1 1UA, UK
Last year's Natural Environment White Paper and new England Biodiversity Strategy may, with hindsight, be viewed as the point at which nature conservation in England underwent a step change. These documents signalled a shift in environmental policy towards greater emphasis on what the environment does for us as human beings, and protecting it as a means of safeguarding our own future. This growing awareness of ecosystem services, the benefits provided to people from functioning ecosystems, has been reflected in the academic literature for many years now, but the publication of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005 caught the interest of the wider policy community. Undertaking a similar assessment for the UK - the National Ecosystem Assessment – has provided the evidence base upon which this new policy framework has developed.
Although a greater understanding and acknowledgment of the value of biodiversity and the environment as a whole is generally welcomed, there are those in the nature conservation lobby who are uneasy about any shift to ecosystem services. Arguably those working, volunteering or just interested in the natural world tend to recognise its inherent value and don't feel the need to justify why we should conserve and protect - it's the right thing to do. There is a fear that a focus on ecosystem services will divert resources, undermine traditional biodiversity led work and lead to the neglect of those species and ecosystems which don't appear to have the greatest value to society. Is this anxiety justified and what do we need to do to avoid such conflicts?
In this presentation we will discuss the potential impact of the ecosystem services agenda and adoption of the ecosystem approach on nature conservation in England. We will consider the extent to which traditional approaches to bird conservation might meet the needs of society and deliver a range of ecosystem services and conversely how adopting the ecosystem approach might affect bird conservation and change priorities. We will look at how species conservation and safeguarding ecosystem services might be achieved in concert, focusing in particular on upland habitats and lowland farmed landscapes. We will illustrate this through examples from Natural England's work both through species conservation projects and through our recent ecosystem approach pilots.
Dr Stewart Clarke is an ecologist and currently manages a programme seeking to embed the ecosystem approach and climate change adaptation across Natural England's work. Since mid 2009 he has been overseeing three ecosystem services pilots in the English uplands, these have attempted to trial the ecosystem approach. He previously worked as a national freshwater specialist on habitats and species conservation for Natural England and its predecessor. He has increasingly focused on ecosystem level issues and worked with, and across, a wide range of scientific disciplines.
Bird pollination and dispersal services to plants: interactions, losses, and trophic cascades
Sandra H. Anderson 1, Dave Kelly 2, Jenny J. Ladley 2 & Alastair W. Robertson 3
1 Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
2 Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
3 Ecology, INR, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North 4474, New Zealand
Worldwide declines in bird numbers have renewed interest in how well bird-plant mutualisms (pollination and dispersal) are functioning. Here we outline the effects of bird declines in New Zealand, a well-documented case study with extensive recent bird losses. In temperate countries generally, bird pollination is uncommon (or in Europe, almost absent), while avian fruit-dispersal is thought to be important.
Unexpectedly, we found that in New Zealand, bird pollination is widespread, with birds visiting many non-ornithophilous flowers. In total birds visit the flowers of 5% of the seed-plant flora and 30% of the trees. Pollination studies show their visits are essential for successful seed production, and that away from nature reserves, pollen limitation is widespread and greater than the global average.
Bird dispersal of seeds is also very common in New Zealand, occurring in 12% of the seed plants and 59% of tree species. Although dispersal of the largest fruits is now dependent on a single large fruit pigeon, only three tree species are affected, and there is little evidence of dispersal failure. However, recent work shows that plants may be very sensitive to dispersal failure, because of lower seedling survival near to the parent tree.
We stress four remarkable aspects of these results. (1) For some plant species the same bird species effect both pollination and dispersal. (2) Dispersal interacts with seed predation (by native invertebrates and/or by introduced mammals) so that lower dispersal also increases losses to seed predators. (3) In the native shrub, Rhabdothamnus solandri several lines of evidence show a trophic cascade where mammalian predators have reduced bird densities, which reduced seed production to the extent that plant regeneration is declining. (4) Restoring these mutualisms by protecting bird populations has proven unexpectedly to be more difficult than simply increasing bird numbers.
Neither the wide range of flowering species visited by birds, nor the extent of mutualism failure after bird losses, were obvious in New Zealand prior to detailed study, and both may apply cryptically elsewhere.
Sandra Anderson is an ecologist at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, New Zealand. Her research considers the importance of mutualistic interactions between animals and plants in maintaining ecosystem function, primarily in New Zealand where birds are the dominant native vertebrate fauna. Sandra and colleagues have re-assessed the role of birds as pollinators and seed dispersers in a southern hemisphere system, and examined the impacts of native bird declines and the naturalisation of introduced birds on ecosystem services. The aim of their research is to enable prediction of vulnerable interactions so that management to sustain and restore biodiversity can be optimised.
The impact of total bird loss on ecosystem services in the forests of Guam
Haldre Rogers 1, Joshua J. Tewksbury 1, Janneke Hille Ris Lambers 2 & Ross Miller 3
1 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rice University, USA
2 Department of Biology, University of Washington, USA
3 Western Pacific Tropical Research Center, University of Guam, Guam
Birds are thought to provide essential ecosystem services including seed dispersal and control of insect herbivores. However, few studies have measured the importance of birds on a community-wide basis, in part because birds are difficult to manipulate experimentally at a scale relevant to their impact. We take advantage of a unique ecological catastrophe to study the role of birds in tropical forests. Virtually all forest birds were extirpated from the island of Guam by the introduction of the Brown Treesnake Boiga irregularis, whereas the nearby islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota support relatively healthy bird populations and thus, serve as suitable controls. We are investigating how the loss of frugivorous and insectivorous birds has affected Guam's forests.
On Guam, about 70% of tree species have fruit adapted for bird-dispersal, and bird loss has consistent negative impacts on seed dispersal and seedling survival. We compared seed rain patterns on Guam to those on Saipan, Tinian and Rota. Guam shows greatly reduced seed dispersal distance compared to nearby islands with birds. We also measured the strength of density-dependent mortality for five common species, and found that four had strong negative density dependence, such that they grew better at plots far from conspecific trees than they did near conspecifics. Species with strong density-dependent mortality on an island that has lost all dispersal will likely experience population decline and eventual extinction. In addition, we compared seed rain in degraded forest adjacent to native forest on Guam and Saipan. No seeds reached degraded forest areas on Guam whereas an average of 1.18 seeds/m2 reached the degraded forest on Saipan. We predict regeneration of native trees in the degraded forest will proceed extremely slowly, if at all. Finally, in the two species we studied, seed germination of seeds not handled by birds was 50-78% lower than germination of handled seeds. The loss of frugivores has had a large impact on the forests of Guam.
The impact of bird loss on top down control of insect herbivores is less clear, possibly due to the complex response of the arthropod community. The strongest signal we have measured is in web-building spiders, which are 2-20 times more abundant on Guam than on islands with birds. Possibly because of this, bird loss does not consistently translate to reduced seedling survival, as would be expected in a simple trophic cascade. In a bird exclosure study conducted across all four islands, we found reduced seedling survival when birds were excluded (Saipan, Tinian or Rota) or missing (Guam) in only one species, and no difference or increased survival in four other species. Additional research is needed to determine whether birds play a role in reducing insect outbreaks or preventing new invasive insects from establishing.
Collectively, our results suggest that impacts of bird loss reverberate through the forests of Guam, and that the loss of frugivorous birds has a larger overall effect on trees than the loss of insectivorous birds.
Dr Haldre Rogers is currently a Huxley Faculty Fellow in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Rice University. She conducted her PhD research at the University of Washington on the effects of complete bird loss on the forests of Guam, and is one of the founders of the Ecology of Bird Loss project (www.ecologyofbirdloss.org). Prior to graduate school, Haldre started the USGS Brown Treesnake Rapid Response Team, and coordinated responses to brown treesnake sightings on islands across the Western Pacific.
Birds as control agents of caterpillars in oak forests
Bereczki, K1, Csóka, G2, ├ôdor P3 & B├íldi, A3
1 Szent Istv├ín University, PhD School of Environmental Sciences, H-2103 Gödöllłæ, P├íter K├íroly u. 1, Hungary
2 Forest Research Institute, Department of Forest Protection, H-3232 M├ítrafüred, Hegyalja u. 18, Hungary
3 Institute of Ecology and Botany,Hungarian Academy of Sciences, H-2163 V├ícr├ítót, Alkotm├íny u. 2-4, Hungary
Insectivorous birds provide a major ecosystem service by consuming herbivore insects, many of which are pests. In temperate forests caterpillars are the main defoliators. Their leaf consumption hinders the growth of damaged trees, negatively influencing their fecundity, thereby inhibiting regeneration. The natural control provided by birds leads to the reduction of caterpillars, thereby leads to the mitigation of plant damage. Theory predicts that species-rich avian assemblages can be more effective in caterpillar control. However, we are still lacking details about the mechanism of this ecosystem service and about how habitat naturalness and forest heterogeneity influence pest control in temperate forests. Thus, our main aims were (1) to study avian predation intensity on caterpillars; (2) to investigate the relationship between density of bird assemblages and predation rate; (3) to examine the connection between bird and caterpillar abundance, and finally (4) to reveal the role of forest naturalness and forest structure variables on predation level. The study was carried out in temperate oak forests (Quercetum petraeae cerris) in the M├ítra Mountains in North Hungary. We selected twenty tree pairs with different vegetation structure around them -half of them were structurally heterogeneous, the others were homogenous. We quantified predation rate using artificial caterpillars made of green plasticine resembling the real caterpillars of the winter moth (Operophtera brumata). Fifteen artificial caterpillars were attached to the branches of each selected tree (in total 600 artificial caterpillars) with half metre distance among them between 1.5 and 2.5 metres height. The optimal prey exposure length (6 days) was calibrated by preliminary experiments. The abundance of insectivorous birds was investigated by point count around each sample tree within a 50 metre radius, and the caterpillar abundance was measured by gathering of leaf samples on randomly selected trees around each sample tree. The caterpillar abundance was standardised to leaf number. The structure variables examined were tree species richness, size distribution of trees, density of shrub and understorey layers, canopy closure and availability of dead wood and cavities. We measured 27% predation rate of artificial caterpillars, of which 74.7% was bird predation. We recorded 29 insectivorous bird species and caterpillars of 23 lepidopteran species on the sample areas. The most abundant bird species were the Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs, the Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, the Great Tit Parus major and the Blue Tit Parus caeruleus. The most abundant caterpillar family was the Tortricidae. We expect to find that forest naturalness and heterogeneity maintains a lower level of caterpillar populations, via promoting a high diversity of bird assemblages, and these are more effective in controlling caterpillars.
Global change, biodiversity and seed dispersal by birds
Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre Frankfurt, Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Among the ecosystem functions provided by birds, seed dispersal might be one of the most important. The seeds of up to 95% of the trees in most tropical forests are dispersed by vertebrates, mostly by birds. In my presentation, I aim to address the impact global change has on the diversity of birds and on seed dispersal. Land-use change, especially in the tropics has a profound impact on the diversity of frugivorous birds. Studies in Kakamega Forest in Kenya demonstrated that especially forest degradation through selective logging leads to declines in the species richness and total abundance of frugivorous birds. This case study is confirmed by a meta-analysis that showed that forest degradation (in contrast to forest fragmentation) has a strong negative impact on seed dispersal rates. As seed dispersal is linked to seedling establishment and gene flow of trees, this loss of seed dispersal leads to poor regeneration and a loss of genetic diversity of tropical trees. For example, in Kakamega Forest, species richness of regenerating seedlings declines in disturbed forests. In addition, the genetic diversity of the African Cherry, Prunus africana, declined in the last 100 years, probably also caused by forest degradation and decreases in seed dispersal rates and gene flow. On the other side, birds are mobile links in ecosystems. They can transport seeds over long distances and hence allow the transport of propagules and genes of plants among fragmented forests. A case study from South Africa showed that Trumpeter Hornbills Bycanistes bucinator can transport seeds over distances up to 15 km. Seed dispersal distances are even longer in fragmented agricultural landscapes than within closed forests. As trees have to disperse among forest fragments to track their preferred climatic conditions under global climate change, these results demonstrate that birds provide essential ecosystem services. To conclude, birds provide important ecosystem functions, especially for the regeneration and resilience of ecosystems, an ecosystem service that is important for the long-term maintenance of ecosystems and that is so far often neglected.
Katrin Böhning-Gaese, 1993 PhD in Tübingen. Postdoctoral researcher at the Max-Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology and at the RWTH Aachen. 2001 Professor at the University Mainz and since 2010 at the Goethe University Frankfurt. Since 2010 Director of the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre Frankfurt. Interest on the impact of global climate and land-use change on birds and their ecosystem services, addressing questions at the community, landscape and macroecological scale. Member of the editorial boards of several journals, e.g. Global Ecology and Biogeography. Member of the decision board of Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.
Pollination and Seed Dispersal Services by Indian Forest Birds
Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Anaikatty PO, Coimbatore 641 025, India
Nectar feeding and fruit eating birds have been monitored to assess their role in pollination and seed dispersal services in the forests of southern India for 20 years. Two decades of work in southern India and a review of literature from other parts of India indicate that nearly one-third (n=292) of the Indian forest bird species are involved in pollination/seed dispersal services. Although the predominant nectar feeding bird families are Muscicapidae (50 species), Pycnonotidae (20) and Sturnidae (17), quantitative data on foraging visits to various plant species indicate that Nectariniidae, Sturnidae and Zosteropidae represented by sunbirds Nectarinia spp, mynas & starlings and Oriental White-eye Zosterops sp respectively are the most frequent flower visitors. Birds belonging to these three families made the majority (78%) of the foraging visits which indicate that they could form the prime avian pollinators in Indian forests. Predominant fruit eating bird families include Muscicapidae (59 species), Pycnonotidae (19) and Sturnidae (17) whose members contributed >50% of the fruit foraging visits. Pycnonotidae and Sturnidae members are 'pivotal! in the forest ecosystem due to their role in both pollination and seed dispersal. Analysis indicates that hornbills and fruit pigeons are the principal seed dispersers in the wet evergreen forest and bulbuls Pycnonotus spp, and Koel Eudynamys scolopacea in the dry forests. Crows (Corvus spp) which are widely distributed from coastal to high elevation forests are also significant seed dispersers as they consume fruits of various sizes and disperse the seeds successfully. Frugivory observations in different forest types indicate that seed dispersal of >50% of woody plant species is affected by birds. Seed germination experiments clearly indicate the fact that bird dispersal is highly useful to the plant as bird-defecated seeds show enhanced germination. It is highlighted that the services of forest birds are essential for the survival of wild plants.
Dr P Balasubramanian is Principal Scientist in the Division of Landscape Ecology at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, India.
'A Nightingale by any other name?': the significance of differences in scientific and vernacular bird naming
Andrew Gosler1 & Caroline Jackson-Houlston2
1 Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology and Institute of Human Sciences, Oxford University
2 Department of English and Modern Languages, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University
In 2008 the urban human population surpassed 50% of the global total (95% in the UK). The transition from rural to urban shifts people from a predominantly natural environment with relatively few anthropogenic components, to a largely artificial environment with relatively few natural components. In the UK, this shift has accompanied a growing disconnection from, ignorance about, and even fear of, nature. This trend is of concern to conservation since we are unlikely to value what is perceived not as familiar and loved, but as unfamiliar, alien or even frightening.
The conservation community's response to this declining public experience has been to attempt to engage people through a largely scientific perception of nature, since this reflects the predominant culture of the conservation community itself. This also assumes that disengagement from nature is the norm for the British public. In this paper we demonstrate, through an etymological analysis of 3,291 British folk names of 78 passerine species, that today's perceived norm is a recent development. The analysis shows that birds not only formed an important component of the cultural landscape of the pre-urban population of the UK, but that a sophisticated ethno-ornithological knowledge existed of the ecology and behaviour of wild birds. Furthermore, analysis of these names rejects utterly the assumption, oft repeated uncritically, that lay people named only what they hunted or ate. As has frequently been stated by ethno-biologists elsewhere, the British people named with clear evidence of affection, the birds in their familiar environment.
Analysis of the folk names also reveals much about those features of birds (appearance, voice, context) that engage the human attention, and about the complex cultural processes that have contributed to the naming of birds over centuries. The names are contextual rather than systematic, involve type species, and reflect a phenetic rather than a phylogenetic perception. These, and other distinctions, indicate a significant mismatch between the natural cultural human perception of birds, the re-engagement of which must be the goal for conservation, and the scientific perception currently used to attempt that re-engagement.
The IOC's production of International English names of British birds, which the BOU have included in the British List since 1992, helps to illustrate the issue. Constructed in order better to reflect phylogenetic relationships among species while also attempting to make explicit the wider geographic relationships of British birds, this list has the effect of disconnecting the user further from the birds and their uniquely British cultural significance. We demonstrate why names such as Winter Wren, Wood Nuthatch or White-throated Dipper lack cultural resonance and traction. The fact that many of the new names were considered controversial is itself demonstrated by the need, well recognised by the BOU, to conserve names (e.g. Wren, Nuthatch, Dipper) of many species for use in Britain.
Finally, we chart the development of vernacular usage through the comparison of three writers from the early 19th to early 20th centuries (Clare, Jefferies and Hudson) with contemporary ornithological works. We suggest that vernacular bird-naming can still be a creative process, but that the presence of the BOU list, essential though it is for scientific ornithology and conservation, induces a culture of authority inimical to its widespread preservation, while oral birders' coinings tend to operate on a depauperate range of principles.
Andrew Gosler is a University Research Lecturer in the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology, Oxford, where he has studied woodland bird ecology and trained students to ring birds since 1981. He has taught for the Institute of Human Sciences, Oxford (and served as Head 2008ÔêÆ2011) since 1998 and runs a course in Biological Conservation for the BA degree in Human Sciences. A former Editor of both Bird Study and Ibis, he has more than 100 publications including The Great Tit (Hamlyn 1993) and Ethno-Ornithology (Earthscan 2010). He is a Council member of the EOU and a Fellow of the International Ornithologists' Union.
Caroline Jackson-Houlston is a Senior Lecturer in English and Subject Co-ordinator for English in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of Oxford Brookes University. Her research interests include allusion to folk song and popular culture in literature, on which subject she published Ballards, Songs and Snatches: Appropriation of Folk Song and Popular Culture in the 19th Century Realist Prose Fiction (Ashgate 1999), and interfaces between literature and popular science. Her published papers on this subject include 'Queen Lilies'? The interpretation of scientific, religious and gender discourses in Victorian representations of plants' in the Journal of Victorian Culture. She is an experienced naturalist and a bird ringer.
Closing the circle - birds, cultural services and human well-being
Ken Norris & Natalie Clark
Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, University of Reading, Earley Gate, PO Box 237, Reading RG6 6AR, UK
We all recognise that birds are culturally important, or in the language of ecosystem services provide people with cultural services. For many of us the enjoyment we experience is why we watch and study wild birds, and why we think conserving wild birds is important. Yet we rarely explicitly define these cultural values, consider how these values vary across society, explore the consequences of these values for our health and well-being, or consider how these values might fit into a wider ecosystem services framework. The aim of our paper is to explore these issues.
We first outline the types of cultural values that have been recognised in the literature in the context of nature conservation. Next, we consider the extent to which these values have shaped bird conservation, using farmland bird populations as an example. We argue that their conservation largely reflects the desire to protect cultural values because priority species play a rather limited functional role in agro-ecosystems. We then contrast the priorities established by conservationists for farmland birds, with those recognised by the farming community, and show that the limited evidence available suggests very different priorities. By explicitly considering cultural values, therefore, we can better understand people's motivation to engage with conservation interventions, and this may help explain why some fail to work.
Evidence suggests that there are significant links between psychological factors and human health, including examples relating to the environment. This implies that changes in wild bird populations and associated changes in their cultural values could have quite profound impacts on people, but we know virtually nothing about these interactions. We outline a framework for improving our understanding of these interactions, and argue that doing so could provide important additional arguments for conservation that go beyond those on which the conservation community has traditionally relied.
Finally, much of traditional (culturally based) conservation is cast as a cost to economic development. This view means that it is often difficult to justify conservation on the grounds of values that are difficult to express in monetary terms when this appears to reduce the economic value of development. While a better understanding of the links between cultural values, well-being and health will help, it is also possibly time to re-examine the assumption that conservation and economic values necessarily trade-off negatively. Scenario analyses conducted in the recent UK National Ecosystem Assessment clearly show that there can be positive rather than negative associations between the economic value of a range of ecosystem services and bird biodiversity. We need to explore these relationships in much greater detail.
We need to recognise that bird conservation is not simply a problem in natural science. By better understanding the cultural values of birds, how these values relate to human health and well-being as well as the values of other ecosystem services, we have the potential opportunity to develop new and more powerful arguments for bird conservation.
Ken Norris is a Biodiversity Scientist of over 20 years experience working on how biodiversity responds to environmental change, and seeking more sustainable solutions to biodiversity conservation. His work focuses on wild birds, focusing in particular on the relationships between birds and farming in UK agro-ecosystems, and on the ecology and conservation of tropical land and seabirds. He is currently Professor of Agro-ecology at the University of Reading, and Director of the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research; as well as Biodiversity Theme Leader for the Natural Environmental Research Council.
Birds and the feel-good factor: exploring links between avian diversity and human well-being
Martin Dallimer 1, Katherine N Irvine 2, Zoe G Davies 3, Sara L Warber 4, Dugald Tinch 5, Kevin J Gaston 6 & Paul R Armsworth 7
1 Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
2 Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK
3 Durrell Institute for Conservation Ecology (DICE), University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
4 Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
5 Economics Division, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK
6 Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Cornwall, UK
7 Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA
Modern society is becoming increasingly disconnected from nature. Indeed, over half of the human population globally now resides within cities and, for many, urban greenspaces are the only places where they regularly encounter biodiversity. This comes at a time when there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that interactions with the natural environment are important for human health and wellbeing. The personal and societal benefits of experiencing nature are varied, but include better self-reported general health, reduced mortality from circulatory diseases, enhanced longevity, stress-relief, improved cognitive functioning, increased social interaction and lower crime rates. However, the particular qualities of urban greenspaces that offer the greatest advantages to humans remain poorly defined. Here we begin to investigate these relationships focusing on birds, which are often the most recognisable, visible and charismatic component of urban wildlife. The presented findings are from a study conducted in the city of Sheffield, UK, where in situ questionnaires were completed by 1108 recreational users across 34 urban river corridor sites. Participants provided information on their motivations for visiting the area, psychological wellbeing, and willingness-to-pay (via a choice experiment) for management to enhance the number of species present at the site. The biodiversity associated with each location was surveyed, generating measures of avian richness, total abundance, and the presence/absence of charismatic species. When questioned about their reasons for visiting a site, interacting with wildlife was referred to by less than 10% of people, and birds were only specifically mentioned 15 times. Despite this, participants reported better psychological well-being in greenspaces that supported more bird species and in sites with a higher overall abundance of birds, irrespective of which species had been recorded. The presence of charismatic species, on the other hand, had no influence. Although our study demonstrates that the general public rarely decide to visit greenspaces with the explicit aim of seeing birds, they nevertheless feel 'better' psychologically on sites that contain more species. This is a clear win-win scenario for human wellbeing and conservation, that should be exploited by policy-makers and practitioners interested in ameliorating the urban environment for both human and non-human residents. In addition, it highlights the potential benefits of strategies that influence city-dwellers to actively engage with the natural world and discover the birdlife around them.
Martin Dallimer is an applied ecologist, currently based at the University of Copenhagen. His research uses empirical data to answer questions of conservation management/policy relevance, primarily in the UK and Africa and birds have been the taxonomic focus of the majority of these studies. Martin's work has become progressively interdisciplinary, examining topics such as the impacts of agricultural and urban land-use on biodiversity, ecological and economic sustainability of upland farming, and benefits to humans of interacting with wildlife. At present, he is exploring both economic and non-financial methods of valuing biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Economics of pest control by birds
Humboldt State University, USA
The instrumental values of birds include use-values, such as for hunting purposes, and non-use-values, such as for recreation, aesthetic value, and for delivering ecosystem services that help sustain and fulfil human life. Ecosystem services are increasingly promoted as the best hope for making conservation attractive and mainstream worldwide. Among the various services provided by birds, pest control can in some cases be economically powerful and thereby harnessed effectively for conservation purposes. Our understanding of factors affecting top-down control of pests draws on recent advances in trophic cascade theory, contributing to our capacity to predict circumstances in which birds may effectively deliver valuable services. Here, I describe methods to quantify the economic value of pest control services drawn from the field of environmental economics, and I briefly review several examples involving birds. Policies for markets and/or payments for bird services are still in their infancy, but I review how policies of other public ecosystem services have progressed and discuss their relevance to bird conservation. Lastly, I identify directions for future ecological and economic research that may lead to advances in bird conservation policy.
Can payments for ecosystem services protect Southeast Asian birds?
David P Edwards 1, Brendan Fisher 2, David S Wilcove 2, Felicity A Edwards 3 & Keith C Hamer 3
1 School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
2 Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, USA
3 Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, UK
Southeast Asia is a hotspot of threatened biodiversity: 17% of bird species are endemic to the region, but the region suffers the highest intensities of logging and rates of forest conversion to agriculture on Earth. Against this background of severe habitat degradation, conservationists must seek novel solutions to protect remaining biodiversity. One of the most important potential sources for funding of forest protection is 'Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES)' schemes. Grouped under the PES umbrella are an array of services, including carbon storage under REDD+, water provision, and ecotourism. The key question is whether such PES can compete with destructive activities and protect the remaining forest of Southeast Asia?
We start by looking at the protection of unlogged (primary) rainforests, with their undisputed value for bird biodiversity. We do so by focusing on Sabah, Borneo, where we use logging records from 300,000 ha of forest to calculate the Net Present Value of timber. We then compare the NPV of timber with the potential profits from PES schemes. We find that such schemes fall short by $1000's per hectare and are unlikely to protect the last remaining tracts of threatened primary forests and the vital biodiversity that they contain.
We thus turn our attention to the potential of logged forests to conserve significant areas of rainforest in Southeast Asia. In many ways, the provision of timber represents an ecosystem service: whilst timber extraction is destructive, the selective-logging techniques used mean that a degraded forest remains afterwards, which will regenerate to provide further timber yields. But how do the financial gains to logging compare with the impact of logging on biodiversity? We use our logging records to understand the NPV of timber across two rotations of logging and then compare this value with the biological value of logged forests. The NPV of timber in logged forests drops by 80% across two rotations, but biodiversity value remains very high. In fact, bird species richness is only marginally impacted and most IUCN red-listed species survive, albeit sometimes in reduced abundances. Furthermore, the diversity of functional traits exhibited by birdsÔÇöwhich spans feeding guilds, foraging strategies, and morphological adaptations, amongst others, and which represents a direct measure of the ecosystem functioning of communitiesÔÇöremains at primary forest levels within logged forests. Whilst logging is harmful, the logged forests nevertheless retain very high biological value.
Logged forests also retain substantial carbon stores, whilst they sequester carbon at a higher rate than do primary forests as the forest regenerates naturally. Forest restoration can further increase this rate of sequestration, but fortunately, the aggressive silvicultural techniques used do not further harm bird communities compared to naturally-regenerating logged forests.
Our results thus show that retaining forests, via payments received from logging activities and from subsequent REDD+ related projects protects the vast majority of bird species. Logged forests thus represent a key way of financing the protection of large landscape areas of forest to supplement the protection of birds within unlogged forest preserves.
David Edwards is a tropical scientist. He studied mutualism and cheating in ant-plant interactions in Peru for his PhD, which was based at the UEA. He then spent five years at the University of Leeds and Princeton University, working on the Southeast Asian biodiversity crisis. He is now based at James Cook University, Cairns, Australia, where he continues his research in Asia and has started a project investigating the impacts of land-use change on birds in Colombia. He is driven to understand the value of degraded rainforests for biodiversity and seeks to highlight novel sources of funding for the protection of these lands.
Do birds provide proxies for Biodiversity in the assessment of ecosystem value?
Chris Panter, Paul Dolman & Hannah Mossman
School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
Birds have major importance within the UK. They provide cultural services, contributing to social value of landscapes, regularly forming the highest profile component of biodiversity. Birds also have intrinsic value in their contribution to wild species diversity. Many bird species are highly visible and recognisable and data on abundance and distribution are extensive, particularly when compared to invertebrate groups. Not surprisingly, birds are widely used as indicators of environmental 'health', when assessing the relative value of landscapes to wildlife and as proxies for biodiversity in assessments of ecosystem value.
Many studies have quantified the effectiveness by which one group of species can act as proxy for other groups. Numerous studies have found that bird species richness correlates with the richness of other groups, but there is considerable variation in congruence between different taxa and many studies have found no correlations between species groups. Most studies have been conducted either at small (site-based) or very large (e.g. 1┬░ squares) spatial scales, and few have been conducted at small spatial scales consistently over a whole region. While contrasts in richness between bioregions can be recognised by small local samples within each, understanding which localities should be prioritised within a particular landscape requires detailed data within the region. Furthermore, most studies focus on a small number of taxa, particularly vertebrate groups, butterflies and occasionally a group of beetles.
We systematically collated available species records for all taxa in two contrasting biogeographic regions of the UK, Breckland (2300km┬▓) and the Broads (2300km┬▓). The recording coverage of plants, vertebrates and major insect groups was good; while coverage of fungi, microscopic organisms and soil infauna was poor. We related richness of all species and those with conservation designations, for diverse groups of non-avian taxa to the avian richness at varying spatial scales (1 km, 5 km, 10 km), whilst controlling for differences in recording effort. The 20 non-avian groups included angiosperms, bryophytes, butterflies, beetle, hymenoptera, diptera, moths, spiders and mollusca.
We found that the richness of bird species and bird species with conservation designations were poor proxies for the richness of other taxonomic groups at all spatial scales, with a number of species groups being significantly negatively correlated with avian richness. Butterfly richness was significantly correlated with the richness of priority species, but only at a spatial scale of 1 km2. In contrast, the richness of priority beetle species was significantly correlated with priority richness of other groups, at all spatial scales.
This work suggests that birds are poor indicator species for wider biodiversity and for groups of species of conservation concern. Whilst the cultural and societal value provided by birds should not be diminished, we suggest caution in their use to assess or value other wild species diversity. Butterflies may provide good proxies for biodiversity at small spatial scales, but beetles were the best indicators overall. We acknowledge that beetles are not as readily recorded as birds or butterflies; however, we demonstrate that data currently available can be used.
Chris Panter is a post-graduate research associate at the University of East Anglia. He has been involved in developing the Biodiversity Audit Approach, first applied to Breckland and the Broads. Through this work he has developed an interest in evidence-based conservation and using biological data and knowledge of species ecology to underpin multi-species conservation. He is currently working on a Biodiversity Audit of the Fens and developing management-relevant guilds of wetland species.
The economic value of White Stork nesting colonies in Polish 'stork villages'
Mikołéaj Czajkowski 1, Marek Giergiczny 1, Jakub Kronenberg 2, Piotr Tryjanowski 3 & Leszek Jerzak 4
1 University of Warsaw, Warsaw Ecological Economics Center, Dluga 44/50, 00-241 Warsaw, Poland
2 University of Lodz, Department of International Economics, P.O.W. 3/5, 90-255 Lodz, Poland
3 Poznan University of Life Sciences, Institute of Zoology, Wojska Polskiego 71C, 60-625 Poznan, Poland
4 University of Zielona Gora, Department of Environmental Protection, Szafrana 1, 65-516 Zielona Góra, Poland
White stork Ciconia ciconia plays a particularly important role in Polish culture and traditions. About 23% of the world population of White stork breeds in Poland, with long-range historical data available on the stork's biology and ecology. As such a 'flagship' species, it is very well studied, recently also from the perspective of ecosystem services.
As an umbrella species for other animals and plants, storks can be associated with supporting services. As a predator, they perform regulating services in an ecosystem, including a contribution to regulating 'pest' populations. From the perspective of humans, the most important benefits provided by storks fall into the category of cultural services. For at least 500 years storks have lived close to human settlements, becoming an important part of Polish folklore, traditions, literature and everyday life.
In this paper we attempt to estimate the economic value of cultural services (tourism, recreation) provided by White storks in Polish 'stork villages'. A stork village is a common name for a village with a White stork breeding colony, often inhabited by more storks than people. Klopot and Zywkowo, two of the best known stork villages in Poland, receive annually 1000-5000 tourists each, almost half of whom come from abroad (mostly Germany). In different years these two villages have about 15-35 White stork nests each. The villages offer stork-watching towers, little gift shops, and exhibitions (with a unique White Stork Museum in Klopot).
To estimate the economic value of storks in a stork village, we used the travel cost method, and combined it with the choice experiment method, in order to derive more precise estimates of value of travel time. About 700 respondents took part in our survey during the 2011 breeding/tourist season (April-August). This is, to our knowledge, the first study aiming to provide an estimate of the recreational value of a stork village. The results are discussed in the broader context of the value of cultural ecosystem services and of using these services as a foundation for the sustainable development of local communities. Therefore, in addition to valuation, we also make suggestions on how to exploit the economic potential of 'stork villages' by making them a keystone for regional development.
Marek Giergiczny is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Economic Sciences at the University of Warsaw. He also conducts research in the Warsaw Ecological Economics Center. He obtained his MSc in Environmental Protection and his PhD in Economics at the University of Warsaw. He focuses on integrating environmental goods and services into economic analysis, helping to capture the importance of ecosystem services in economic decision-making. His main research areas include environmental valuation and implementation of economic instruments for nature conservation. He participated in the study aimed at estimating the willingness to pay for optimal management scheme of the Zvanets fen mire in Belarus, a unique habitat for many endangered species, including the Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola.
What's Government doing?
In June 2011, the Government published the England Natural Environment White Paper (The Natural Choice). This was strongly influenced by the National Ecosystem Assessment. This paper will describe the development of the ecosystem approach within England, including the background to the commissioning of the National Ecosystem Assessment. The White Paper emphasised that a healthy, properly functioning natural environment is the foundation of sustained economic growth, prospering communities and personal wellbeing, and that we needed to take better account of the value of nature in decision making at all levels. The paper will describe the main content and commitments from the White Paper, and outline the progress that has been made so far in implementing the commitments.
Dr Peter Costigan has worked for MAFF and Defra for over 20 years, and is currently the Science Co-ordinator for Environment and Rural Group. During this time he has been closely involved with interaction between agriculture and the environment and the development of evidence to inform agri-environment schemes. Over the last few years he has been closely involved with the development of the ecosystem approach within Defra and represented the Department on the Client Group of the NEA. Peter is Chair of the Biodiversity Research Advisory Group. Prior to joining MAFF he spent 12 years as an agricultural researcher in the public and private sectors.
Valuing Nature Network: evolving the ecosystem services paradigm
The James Hutton Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK
Sustaining the crucial role which ecosystems play in underpinning economic activity and human wellbeing is of growing concern as evidence mounts of the increasing pressures being placed upon the environment by human activity. The NERC Valuing Nature Network (VNN) is a trans-disciplinary, virtual community undertaking research into the valuation of biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resource use, and the processes for the incorporation of such values within decision-making.
The VNN has two major research objectives. First, Developing a trans-disciplinary framework for the valuation of stocks of natural capital and flows of ecosystem services. Here the VNN aims to bring together natural and social scientists to develop integrated methods for ecosystem valuation (both monetary and non-monetary) and examining approaches for ensuring the sustainability of stocks of natural resources and the flow of ecosystem services derived from them. The VNN also has an explicit remit to generate a new community linking researchers with both public and private sector decision makers and other stakeholders to promote sustainable, well informed policy creation. Second, Characterising the socio-ecological system knowledge required to properly capture the value of biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resources. Here the aims of the VNN are (i) to enhance the knowledge base regarding ecosystem processes and address the uncertainty created by non-linear system dynamics, so as to improve the valuation of both natural resource stocks and ecosystem service flows, and (ii) to identify ways to improve the accessibility and integration of existing biophysical and socio-economic information and data sets; and to develop integrated modelling of natural capital and ecosystem services at relevant spatial and temporal scales.
However, the incorporation of such concerns within real-world decision making raises a number of key challenges, which we co-constructed with scientists from a wide range of disciplines together with decision makers, including government, its agencies, NGOs and the private sectors through a series of workshops. This inclusive process concluded that the VNN research objectives should be addressed by funding work to address the four challenges:
- How can the complexity of socio-ecological systems be incorporated into valuations of biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resource use?
- How can stock sustainability be incorporated within valuations of biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resource use?
- How can issues of scale be incorporated within valuations of biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resource use?
- How do we integrate information on values obtained from the natural sciences, economics and other social sciences into governance and so improve decision making and how can such improved decisions be implemented effectively?
Ten one-year research projects to address these four challenges have recently started and some of the early work, relevant to the conference theme, will be described, as well as some future aspirations.
Integrating approaches into policy
Ian Bainbridge & Des Thompson
Scottish Natural Heritage, 231 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh EH12 7AT, UK
The re-emergence of the ecosystem approach to environmental conservation and management has signalled important changes in and to the political attitudes to biodiversity in recent years. The evolution of conservation action programmes, from site-based activity to wider countryside measures presents a wide range of new opportunities to further conservation.
Among these wider considerations is the recognition of ecosystems, habitats and species to provide a range of services. Birds are no different from other groups: examples of birds providing all four groups of services can be identified. However, few birds are recognised as keystone species in the UK, so cultural and provisioning services come to the fore, rather than supporting or regulating services.
For these reasons, it is unwise to rely on ecosystem services arguments as the sole reasons for bird conservation, and it is surely better to view services as one of the twelve principles of the ecosystem approach.
In Scotland, the ecosystem approach continues to be developed as central to environmental policy. The revision of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy is key in this, marrying the ecosystem approach, the concepts of ecosystem services and natural capital, with site and species conservation. Alongside this, the implementation of the Land-use Strategy and Marine Strategy for Scotland will be key drivers in the ways in which we manage our environment. These approaches will bring changes, some of which may be uncomfortable for some parties; will adaptive management control or stimulate exploitation of bird populations, for example?
Dr Ian Bainbridge is Head of Science for Scottish Natural Heritage. Ian has worked in conservation for over thirty years, with RSPB Scotland, SNH and the Wildlife Trusts. He was the Chief Ecological Adviser to the Scottish Government from 2001-2009. Much of his work is trying to bridge the gap between science and policy. He chairs the UK SPA and Ramsar Scientific Working Group, and the Scottish Biodiversity Science and Goose Science Groups. Ian led for the EU on the CBD Island Biodiversity Work Programme and has contributed to the Bern Convention Charter for Island Biodiversty. In his spare time, Ian counts and rings birds, records moths and grows alpine plants.
New spin on old concepts: ecosystem services and the Ramsar Convention
JNCC, Peterborough, UK
The concept of ecosystem services - the benefits provided by wetlands both to mankind and the wider functioning of ecological systems - has been at the heart of the 'Ramsar' Convention on wetlands since 1971. The very first paragraphs of the Convention's Preamble recognise both 'the interdependence of man and his environment! and 'the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands as regulators of water regimes!. Indeed, the ability of wetlands to continue to provide and support ecosystem services is central to Ramsar's 'wise-use' concept - which preceded, and is regarded as synonymous with, the 'sustainable use' concept defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992.
Thus, for those using the Ramsar Convention to promote wetland conservation around the world for the past 40 years, the concept of 'ecosystem services' just provides new language to (re-)express basic and long-established wetland conservation imperatives. If that provides a more effective means of communicating with governmental and other decisions makers it will be useful; but as with all new forms of expression of established concepts, there is also a risk of imprecision in thinking and of communication of needs. There is a high risk of losing focus on the individual requirements of threatened species by the adoption of new ways of describing the drivers of conservation based solely on 'ecosystem services'.
In some countries, the idea of the creation of markets for ecosystem services such as water is highly politically contentious. In this context, the implications of the word 'service! is especially controversial, and this has lead to long negotiations at Conferences of the Parties (COPs) over the use of the term 'ecosystem services'. Indeed, these words have not been formally adopted by Ramsar Parties.
One of the three pillars of the Convention is the establishment of a global network of wetlands of international importance, formally protected by Contracting Parties. There are currently 1,997 Ramsar Sites covering 192,099,123 ha - a unique global estate of protected wetlands of huge significance for birds and other conservation interests. Contracting Parties have obligations to regularly report on these sites via a Ramsar Information Sheet, and this process provides a means to gather and make available descriptive information. In July, COP 11 will be considering a proposal for a significant over-haul of information to be reported from Ramsar Sites. This will include, for the first time, systematic information on the importance of the ecosystem services at each Ramsar Site. Over time this will provide a unique source of information on the wider benefits and services provided. Also proposed is a mechanism for reporting on the presence and status of individual species at Ramsar sites - potentially a major step forward for bird and other species conservation and monitoring if approved.
David Stroud is Senior Ornithologist with the UK’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee, and has been involved in the management of many of the UK's bird monitoring programmes. He is a member of the Ramsar's Scientific and Technical Review Panel (as thematic lead for work on site designation) and has also actively contributed to the work of Wetlands International, the Birds Directive’s Ornis Committee (and its Scientific Working Group), AEWA’s Technical Committee (as current representative of NW & C Europe), as well as the International Wader Study Group.
Recasting the role of birds within an ecosystem service framework: what do population dynamics indicate?
S.J. Butler 1, R. Hintzen 2, A. Mead 3, K. Norris 2 & M. Rivas Casado 4
1 School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, UK
2 Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, University of Reading, UK
3 School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, UK
4 School of Applied Sciences, Cranfield University, UK
Bird population trends are a widely adopted and broadly accepted proxy of the status of wider biodiversity health and management for their conservation has had a significant influence on the development and design of UK and European biodiversity policy. With justification and support for conservation policy and management strategies increasingly focusing on the role of biodiversity in ecosystem function and the provision of key services and goods, there appears to be a growing perception that the role and importance of birds needs to be recast within this broader framework. As a result, management for bird conservation is increasingly being described and promoted as a mechanism for delivering ecosystem services. However, evidence to support the tacit assumption that there is a positive relationship between bird population trends and the flow of ecosystem services and goods, which often underpins this assertion, is at best limited. Here we present the results of two modelling exercises to test this, exploring how the response of farmland birds to land-use and land-management change relates to the impact of those changes on a range of both taxonomic groups and ecosystem services.
In the first example, we use predictions of the response of farmland birds, mammals, butterflies, pollinators and broadleaf weeds to a series of land-use change scenarios in agroecosystems to explore the merit of birds as indicators of wider biodiversity and, by extension, the ecosystem services it supports. In the second example, we explore how predicted trends of farmland bird species relate directly to the delivery of key provisioning, regulating and cultural services. Based on land-use patterns within a study site of Marston Vale, Bedfordshire UK, we modelled crop yield, biomass and renewable energy production capacity, soil C, recreational opportunity and landscape heterogeneity at 1 x 1km square level and compared this to predicted population growth rates of farmland bird species at the same spatial scale.
Both sets of analyses suggest that the strength and direction of any relationship between bird population trends and the health of wider biodiversity or delivery of ecosystem services is highly variable and, therefore, that the value of birds as indicators of these is limited. We stress that these results should not detract from the intrinsic value of birds, the ecosystem services they deliver directly or the role they have played in driving conservation policy and management. However, they do serve to emphasise the need to be realistic, objective and explicit about the role management for bird conservation can play in the delivery of ecosystem services.
Simon Butler is currently a NERC Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia. After completing his PhD in the Edward Grey Institute for Field Ornithology, University of Oxford, he worked as a research biologist for the RSPB before spending five years at the Centre of Agri-Environmental Studies, University of Reading. His research is designed to develop and enhance the evidence-base explaining continued global biodiversity losses, particularly in agroecosystems, and supporting the targeted delivery of conservation management measures designed to halt them.
Farming for wild nature - integration of biodiversity and sustainable development in tropical agricultural landscapes in Uganda
Mark F. Hulme 1, Anna R. Renwick1,Juliet A. Vickery 2, Rhys E. Green 2,3, Ben Phalan3, Dan E. Chamberlain 4, Derek E. Pomeroy 5, Dianah Nalwanga 6, David Mushabe 6, Raymond Katebaka 5, Simon Bolwig7, Theodore Munyuli5, Simon G. Potts8 & Phil Atkinson1
1 British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, UK
2 The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Lodge, Sandy, Beds SG19 2DL, UK
3 Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK
4 Dipartimento di Biologi├í Animale e dell’Uomo, University of Turin, Via Accademia Albertina 13, 10123 Turin, Italy
5 Institute of Environment and Natural Resources, Makerere University, PO Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda
6 NatureUganda, Plot 83, Tufnel Drive , Kamwokya, PO Box 27034, Kampala, Uganda
7 Systems Analysis Division, Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, Technical University of Denmark, Frederiksborgvej 399, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark
8 School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, Reading University, Reading. RG6 6AR, UK
Increasing population size and demand for food in the developing world is driving the intensification of agricultural systems, often threatening the ecosystem services upon which agro-ecosystems depend, and makes the enhancement of human livelihoods while protecting natural ecosystems a key challenge. We quantified the provision of ecosystem services, their trade-offs and synergies, across an agricultural gradient in Uganda and also compared the potential effects of land sparing and land sharing on bird densities in forest and on farmland. We show that higher income in intensively managed farmed landscapes result in a decline in species richness of birds, bees, butterflies and trees, and reductions in both carbon storage and pollination services. This decline is particularly marked when smallholder mixed cropping shifts to plantation style agriculture but is also evident within smallholder systems. This reduction in services is predicted to increase as population increases and may have profound consequences for the environment and overall human wellbeing, despite the short-term income gains. We found, however, that modelling of densities of 256 bird species against crop yield, both as food energy and income, indicated that sparing land for nature whilst increasing farmland yields elsewhere results in increased densities for most species for a given production target, particularly for those with limited ranges. At the very large scale sparing land for nature whilst increasing yields on farmland is likely to be good for biodiversity although at the farm level we are likely only to be dealing with smallholders in the medium term, so large-scale European-style farming is not an option and smallholders will still be reliant on ecosystem services for many aspects of crop production. The pollination example shows that on intensively managed plots yields are significantly less than they could be if they had sufficient pollinators. To increase yields we need to address this pollination gap, and possibly other un-measured ecosystem services, in intensive sites. Current agricultural intensification strategies of adding more fertilizer or relying on increased use of machinery no longer work in many areas due to soil degradation, and the increasingly unpredictable natural and economic environments means that farming is becoming even more challenging. For that reason, a new paradigm for agricultural research and development involving a diversity of approaches using a combination of scientific and indigenous knowledge is called for. This approach would ensure that we can sustainably manage our natural resources and produce resilient landscapes that offer a win-win situation for both human well-being and biodiversity.
Mark Hulme completed a PhD on birds in agriculture in Nigeria at the University of St Andrews and has worked at the BTO since 2008 gaining extensive experience working on land use issues in both in the UK and overseas. His main interests are the effects of habitat change and agriculture on bird populations and he led on the analysis of the bird density - crop yield models presented in this talk.
Investigating the role of farmland birds in complex ecological networks
Darren M. Evans 1, Michael J. O. Pocock 2 & Jane Memmott 3
1 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Hull, Cottingham Road, Hull, HU5 3HA, UK
2 NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Maclean Building, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB, UK
3 School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol, BS8 1UG, UK
Birds provide important ecological functions such as seed dispersal, pollination, consumption of carrion and predation on vertebrates and invertebrates. Many of these functions (such as insect pest control) can be considered as ecosystem services as they directly benefit mankind. Currently, a significant proportion of bird species worldwide are threatened with extinction. We are only just beginning to understand the ecological and societal consequences of bird declines in terms of ecosystem services. Indeed some species are already functionally extinct and contribute negligibly to ecosystem processes.
According to the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, the economic benefits of nature are seen most clearly in food production, which depends on organisms such as soil microbes, earthworms and pollinating insects. Farmland birds (which have declined significantly in recent decades) also have an important functional role, although traditionally ecologists have regarded them mainly as bioindicators of environmental change. But despite knowing much about the autoecology of many bird species, we know little about the direct and indirect ways in which birds interact with species across trophic levels and within entire ecosystems. Ecological networks describe the interactions between species, the underlying structure of communities and the function and stability of ecosystems. Thus, they have considerable potential for quantifying the effects of human activities on a wide range of complex ecological interactions and ecosystem services.
In this paper, we discuss how recent advances in our understanding of qualitative and quantitative ecological networks can be applied to the study of ecosystem services provided by birds. We present data from an intensive 3-year study of species interactions on an organic farm in SW England - the Norwood Farm network. This comprised of 1501 quantified unique interactions between a total of 560 taxa, including plants and 11 groups of animals: those feeding on plants (butterflies and other flower visitors, aphids, seed-feeding insects, and granivorous birds and mammals) and their dependants (primary and secondary aphid parasitoids, leaf miner parasitoids, parasitoids of seed-feeding insects and rodent ectoparasites). Here, we focus on the sub-components of the Norwood Farm network that involves feeding interactions between farmland birds and seeds and the ecosystem service of avian seed dispersal. We then consider bird interactions in the context of the overall network.
First, we show the importance of over 120 seed species as a source of food for over 50 species of birds within the network. However, the overwhelming majority of seed-feeding animals identified within the network were invertebrates (82%) relying predominantly on non-crop and weed species. Second, we present data on the structure of our quantitative bird-seed dispersal network and show that a diverse (and sometimes surprising) range of birds present on the farm disperse an equally diverse range of seed species. Finally, we consider the 'robustness' of the networks to species loss and show that the robustness of linked networks in an agroecosystem vary but do not co-vary. In other words, targeting one guild of animals for conservation or restoration purposes (such as insect pollinators) will not inevitably benefit others (such as birds).
Darren Evans is a Lecturer in Conservation Biology at the University of Hull. His research group studies the impacts of environmental change on the structure and dynamics of ecological networks and the consequences for plant and animal populations. With an interest in the ecosystem services provided by birds, he uses a network ecology approach to examine the direct and indirect interactions between species in agro-ecosystems. This involves a combination of long-term field experiments and computer simulations and is increasingly underpinned by interdisciplinary collaborations with social scientists and economists.
A systematic review of bird ecosystem services: what is the evidence-base linking birds with ecosystem services?
Matt Grainger 1, Jeroen Minderman 2, Mark Whittingham 2 & Philip McGowan 1
1 World Pheasant Association, Newcastle University Biology Field Station, Close House Estate, Heddon on the Wall, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE15 0HT, UK
2 School of Biology, Ridley Building, University of Newcastle, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK
What is the state of knowledge linking birds and ecosystem services? We know that the actions of birds (seed dispersal, predation of insects, etc.), their products (nests, eggs, meat, etc.) and cultural links with human societies have the potential to provide important benefits. What we do not know, however, is the extent to which these assumed ecosystem services actually result in tangible and measurable benefits to humans. For example, birds may be significant predators of commercially important pest species but does this translate in to increased yield from agriculture?
We carried out a systematic review of the literature to quantify the evidence-base linking birds and ecosystem services. We searched on-line scientific databases (Scopus and Web of Science) using the search terms 'Bird AND Ecosystem Service! OR 'Ecological Service! to identify literature purporting to link birds and ecosystem services. We also used existing reviews to identify further peer-reviewed articles not identified in the search.
Evidence for ecosystem services provided by birds was almost exclusively limited to regulating services (in particular pest control). Despite several authors suggesting that birds provide provisioning, supporting and cultural services, there is little empirical evidence to support this view. Our systematic review has identified gaps in the knowledge about ecosystem service provision by birds and we suggest some avenues for future research.
Matt Grainger is the Conservation Research and Support Officer for the World Pheasant Association, an international conservation body founded in 1975, which aims to support research and the conservation of all 286 species of Galliformes along with their habitats and ecosystems. Matt has completed a PhD in zoology addressing the reassembly of biotic communities after mining disturbance.
Partnerships and strategic challenges
University of East Anglia, UK
Thirty years ago the ecosystem approach was almost dead, but the last ten years has seen a resurgence in the interest of researchers, policy makers and practitioners in the ecosystem approach and the value that can be placed on ecosystem services. This in part derives from placing a greater value on the benefits that humans derive from ecosystem services and of the need to understand the trade offs between the different services in making decisions about how we best use our land and seas. Understandably, this has led to some tensions with established approaches towards conservation, some of which are explored in this conference.
In support of the ecosystem approach, the UK National Ecosystem Assessment has provided a comprehensive assessment of the state of our understanding of ecosystem services. Following the publication of the UK NEA and the Natural Environment White paper a range of initiatives, highlighted in this meeting, are now progressing across the UK to mainstream the ecosystem approach. There has also been a substantial increase in research funding at the ecosystem scale by the Living With Environmental Change partners to further develop the evidence base and plug gaps in our understanding.
Looking forward, it is clear that our environment is changing in an unprecedented fashion as a result of world population growth and the consumption of natural resources. We face an unprecedented number of challenges as we simultaneously try to conserve biodiversity, mitigate climate change and improve human well-being whilst ensuring food, water and energy security. Addressing these challenges requires working in partnership and taking a systems perspective at which the ecosystem approach must lie at the heart.
This conference has highlighted a wide range of topics relating to birds from an ecosystem perspective ranging from valuation and the cultural services they provide to the specifics of the role that birds play in ecosystem functioning. This talk will end with a reflection on some of those issues, knowledge gaps and future directions.
Prof. Andrew Watkinson is Director of Living With Environmental Change, an initiative involving 22 partners that aims to optimise the coherence and effectiveness of UK environmental research funding, with the specific aim of ensuring that decision makers in government, business and society have the foresight, knowledge and tools to mitigate, adapt to and benefit from environmental change. Prior to becoming Director of LWEC in 2008 he was Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia and Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research where he took a particular interest in flooding and the impacts of climate change on the coastal zone.