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

Jellesmark, S., Ausden, M., Blackburn, T.M., Gregory, R.D., Hoffmann, M., Massimino, D., McRae, L., & Visconti, P. (2021). A counterfactual approach to measure the impact of wet grassland conservation on UK breeding bird populations. Conservation Biology 10.1111/cobi.13692. (In Press)

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Wet grassland wader populations in the United Kingdom have experienced severe declines over the last three decades. To help mitigate these declines, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has restored and managed lowland wet grassland nature reserves to benefit these and other species. However, the impact that these reserves have on bird population trends has not been experimentally evaluated, as appropriate control populations do not readily exist. In this study, we compare population trends from 1994 - 2018 for five bird species of conservation concern that breed on these nature reserves with counterfactual trends using matched breeding bird survey observations. Our results showed positive effects of conservation interventions for all four wader species that these reserves aim to benefit: Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), Redshank (Tringa totanus), Curlew (Numenius arquata) and Snipe (Gallinago gallinago). There was no positive effect of conservation interventions on reserves for the passerine, Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava). We compared reserve trends with three different counterfactuals, based on different scenarios of how reserve populations could have developed in the absence of conservation, and found that reserve trends performed better regardless of the counterfactual used. Our approach using monitoring data to produce valid counterfactual controls is a broadly applicable method allowing large-scale evaluation of conservation impact. Article impact statement: Post-hoc quasi-experimental analysis shows that wet grassland conservation has positively affected targeted breeding bird populations. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Counterfactual, causal inference, conservation effectiveness, impact evaluation, wetland birds, wetland conservation
Research Programs: Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR) > Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation (BEC)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2021 08:33
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2021 10:14
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/16984

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