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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Provide paths to limit the extent of disturbance Bird Conservation

Key messages

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A before-and-after study from the UK found that two species of wader nested closer to a path, or at higher densities near the path, following resurfacing, which resulted in far fewer people leaving the path.


Supporting evidence from individual studies


A before-and-after study from March-July in 1986-1988 and 1996-1998 at a moor and bog site within the Peak District, England (Finney et al. 2005), found that Eurasian golden plovers Pluvialis apricaria avoided a significantly smaller area surrounding a path after it was re-surfaced, compared with before (birds avoided areas up to 200 m from the path before re-surfacing vs. areas 50 m from the path afterwards; birds showed no avoidance on weekdays after re-surfacing). Before resurfacing, up to 30% of walkers left the path, afterwards only 4% left it. The study found no evidence that plover reproduction was adversely affected by disturbance around footpaths.



A before-and-after study (Pearce-Higgins et al. 2007) using data from the same surveys as in (1) found that dunlin Calidris alpine occupancy within 200 m of the footpath increased by 50% following path re-surfacing in 1994 (35 birds seen before resurfacing vs. 57 afterwards). However, the authors caution that this was not a significant increase, probably due to small sample sizes. The study found no evidence that dunlin reproduction was adversely affected by disturbance around footpaths.


Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2019) Bird Conservation. Pages 141-290 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.