Targeting Conservation Funding using the NBN
Many birds are rapidly declining in both range and population, including iconic species such as the tree sparrow, lapwing and curlew. In an ideal world, we could apply global protection to all species. However, when resources are limited, the most practical solution is to target conservation in the areas that will benefit them most. So how do we determine which areas to target? Rising to meet the challenge for scarce and declining birds is the Bird Conservation Targeting Project (BCTP), an ambitious partnership between bird conservation organisations and government agencies.
The BCTP produces annual, UK-wide distribution maps of breeding territories for more than 40 species of farmland and woodland birds. These maps have already been used to guide the spending of hundreds of millions of pounds through agri-environment and woodland grant schemes.
To ensure the maps give the most extensive coverage possible, data is collected from a wide range of sources. These include large datasets, such as coordinated national surveys, local bird clubs, county recorders, records submitted on-line to Birdtrack, and the NBN. The NBN is an ideal data source for the project, as all of the records are species specific, geo-referenced, and have a defined date. Consequently, all the data can potentially feed into the project. Where appropriate we are recommending that local groups submit records to the NBN as an ideal method of feeding data into the BCTP.
Using the NBN’s web services, the Gateway was searched for datasets containing the BCTP’s target species. To export the data, we needed to request download access from the data providers for their relevant datasets. With the access privileges in hand, web services were used to download records that could feed into the targeting maps. Search criteria were set to retrieve only records indicating the presence of the target species during the breeding season in the last 5 years. For resident species, records from any time of year were used.
With data collected from such a wide range of species, it is important that all the records collected are adequately interpreted. Bird recorders are asked to use their expert local knowledge, to validate the target maps for the species in their area. The validation allows for the removal of mis-identified species (outside of their known range or habitat), and records of birds migrating to or from their nesting ground. This guarantees that only accurate data feed into the distribution maps. The resulting maps are provided to the project partners, and tailored outputs are developed for incorporation into existing systems to guide the funding of targeted conservation schemes. The data are also available to other organisations for use in conservation projects.
The success of this project relies heavily on our ability to access nationwide avian breeding records. Ideally, the maps will show the location of every breeding site for our target species. Records on the NBN can potentially make a significant contribution, and ideally, all data would feed into the project via the NBN. The NBN presents a simple method for widely sharing data, which can feed into projects that interpret biological records for conservation purposes, such as the BCTP.
The BCTP is supported by a partnership between the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Centre for Data and Recording (CEDaR), the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Forestry Commission England (FCE), Forestry Commission Wales (FCW), Forest Service (FS), the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). For more information, see the RSPB website, or contact Emma Teuten (firstname.lastname@example.org).