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What Works in Conservation 2020

William J. Sutherland
Lynn V. Dicks
Silviu O. Petrovan
et al.

3. Bird conservation

3.8 Threat: Human intrusions and disturbance

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Likely to be beneficial

Provide paths to limit disturbance

1A study from the UK found that two waders nested closer to a path, or at higher densities near the path, following resurfacing, which resulted in far fewer people leaving the path. Assessment: likely to be beneficial (effectiveness 50 %; certainty 40 %; harms 0 %).


Start educational programmes for personal watercraft owners

3A before-and-after study in the USA found that common tern reproduction increased, and rates of disturbance decreased, following a series of educational programmes aimed at recreational boat users. Assessment: likely to be beneficial (effectiveness 40 %; certainty 40 %; harms 0 %).


Use signs and access restrictions to reduce disturbance at nest sites

5Six studies from across the world found increased numbers of breeders, higher reproductive success or lower levels of disturbance in waders and terns following the start of access restrictions or the erection of signs near nesting areas. Two studies from Europe and Antarctica found no effect of access restrictions on reproductive success in eagles and penguins, respectively. Assessment: likely to be beneficial (effectiveness 59 %; certainty 55 %; harms 10 %).


Use voluntary agreements with local people to reduce disturbance

7A before-and-after trial in the USA found significantly lower rates of waterfowl disturbance following the establishment of a voluntary waterfowl avoidance area, despite an overall increase in boat traffic. Assessment: likely to be beneficial (effectiveness 50 %; certainty 40 %; harms 0 %).


Unknown effectiveness (limited evidence)

Habituate birds to human visitors

9A study from Australia found that bridled terns from heavily disturbed sites had similar or higher reproductive success compared with less-disturbed sites, possibly suggesting that habituation had occurred. Assessment: unknown effectiveness — limited evidence (effectiveness 20 %; certainty 10 %; harms 0 %).


Use nest covers to reduce the impact of research on predation of ground-nesting seabirds

11A before-and-after study from Canada found that hatching success of Caspian terns was significantly higher when researchers protected nests after disturbing adults from them. Assessment: unknown effectiveness — limited evidence (effectiveness 41 %; certainty 35 %; harms 19 %).


No evidence found (no assessment)

13We have captured no evidence for the following interventions:

  • Reduce visitor group sizes
  • Set minimum distances for approaching birds (buffer zones)

Table des illustrations

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