Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Provide paths to limit the extent of disturbance

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

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.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. 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.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. 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.

    Study and other actions tested
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. (2020) Bird Conservation. Pages 137-281 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

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Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
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What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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