Building a user-friendly model to advise wildlife policy and management

Lead Research Organisation: Bournemouth University
Department Name: Sch of Applied Sciences

Abstract

The purpose of this project is to develop a user-friendly model that can be used to predict how environmental change (for example, caused by climate change, habitat loss, land use change, harvesting by humans or habitat management) influences animal populations. The model will be developed by adding a user-friendly interface to a novel, specialist model that has to date only been used within the scientific modelling community. This existing model has been successfully applied by the research team to a wide range of European intertidal and coastal sites, and used to predict how environmental change influences the wading bird and wildfowl populations that feed in these areas, and hence advise coastal policy and management for these species. The model has been used to advise management of coastal shellfisheries to maximise profit to the shellfish industry, while ensuring that bird populations that also consume shellfish are not adversely affected. It has been used to predict the effect of habitat loss through port development, and the most effective way of mitigating the negative effects of this habitat loss through habitat creation schemes. The model has been used in the marine environment to predict the relative impact of offshore windfarms on populations of diving ducks, and identify the developments that have the minimum effect on wildlife. Although the existing model has successfully advised coastal policy and management, it has had the major drawback that due to the technical difficulties of running the model and understanding its output, it has only been used by specialist modellers within the scientific community. This is unsatisfactory, as this tool should really be accessible to those who have a direct interest in coastal management and policy. For example, shellfishery regulators collect data on the abundance of shellfish from which they need to set quotas for the amount of shellfish that can be removed, whilst leaving enough to ensure the survival of co-dependent bird populations, and could do this in-house with a suitable model. Likewise, the model could be used by developers to compare the ecological impacts of alternative port construction sites, or by conservation agencies to assess the relative impact of development schemes to prioritise which, if any, schemes to object to. This project will provide such a user-friendly and accessible software tool. The new model will reduce the complexities of running the current model to a sequence of simple steps to develop a model for a system and define the required outputs. The new user-friendly model will be developed and tested for coastal birds, collaboratively between the research team and project partners from a range of conservation, government and industrial organisations, with an interest in predicting the effect of environmental change on coastal birds, and with whom the research team have worked successfully in the past. The new software, and associated user guide, will be developed, by an iterative processes of development, followed by testing by the project partners, a strategy designed to ensure that the partners have a full involvement in the project, and ultimately obtain the tool they require. Although, during the project, the user-friendly model will be applied to coastal birds, it will be constructed in a general way, such that it is not restricted to these systems, and can be applied to a wider range of systems in the future. These priority systems will be identified during the project. A workshop and scientific paper will be used as a platform to advertise the existence of the new model as a tool for addressing environmental conflicts both within the coast and the additional priority systems. Additionally, to allow the model to be distributed as widely as possible, and to ensure that updates can be made available after the end of the project, a website will be constructed, from which the model and updates can be freely downloaded.

Publications

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Description The purpose of this project was to develop a user-friendly model that can be used to predict how environmental change (for example, caused by climate change, habitat loss, land use change, harvesting by humans or habitat management) influences animal populations. The model was developed by adding a user-friendly interface to a novel, specialist model (named MORPH) that had previously only been used within the scientific modelling community.



MORPH had been successfully applied to a wide range of European coastal sites, and predicted how environmental change influences the bird populations that feed in these areas, and hence advise coastal policy and management. The model had been used to advise management of coastal shellfisheries, and to predict the effect of habitat loss, and the most effective way of mitigating the negative effects of this habitat loss through habitat creation schemes. Although MORPH had successfully advised coastal policy and management, it has had the drawback that due to the technical difficulties of running the model and understanding its output, it had only been used by specialist modellers.



This project developed such a user-friendly and accessible software tool (named WADERMorph). The new model reduces the complexities of running the previous model to a sequence of simple steps to develop a model for a system. The new user-friendly model was developed and tested for coastal birds, collaboratively between the research team and project partners from a range of conservation, government and industrial organisations, with an interest in predicting the effect of environmental change on coastal birds, and with whom the research team had worked successfully in the past. The new software, and associated user guide, were developed, by an iterative processes of development, followed by testing by the project partners, a strategy designed to ensure that the partners had a full involvement in the project, and ultimately obtained the tool they required.



Although, during the project, the user-friendly model was applied to coastal birds, it was constructed in a general way, such that it is not restricted to these systems, and can be applied to a wider range of systems in the future. Priority systems identified during the project included farmland birds, marine and freshwater wildfowl and freshwater fish. Preliminary research is underway as a first step in developing user-friendly models for these systems. The new model has been publicised by a combination of conference presentations, workshop demonstrations and paper describing the new model and its potential range of applications.



By developing the user-friendly model, the project has made the predictive capability of MORPH available to wider variety of users.
Exploitation Route The user-friendly model developed during the project has potential to be used by non-academic users including coastal conservationists, managers and consultants to advise coastal conservation and management.
Sectors Environment

URL http://individualecology.bournemouth.ac.uk
 
Description The project allowed key coastal stakeholders to better understand how the models developed during the project could be used to advise the conservation and management of coastal birds. One important lesson from the user engagement within the project was that the results of modelling studies need to be communicated to users in as simple and transparent way as possible. To address this, ongoing work with stakeholders (including some of those in the project) has focused on drawing simple conclusions from models of the type developed in the project, and using these to advise coastal bird management and policy.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services