The research of the Conservation Biology Group provides an understanding of the maintenance, loss and restoration of biodiversity at different spatial and temporal scales. We apply ecological theory and management practices to generate solutions to the conservation of genes, species, populations and ecosystems.
Spatial and life-history approaches to bird conservation
Many bird populations are declining quickly – for example, over half of shorebird species are in decline or recently extinct. The causes of bird population declines are many-fold, and can involve complex interactions between different intrinsic and extrinsic explanatory variables. We use large datasets from model groups that are defined phylogenetically (such as shorebirds) or ecologically (such as wetland birds) to investigate the life-history, behavioural, habitat and landscape characteristics that make some species more prone to population decline and extinction than others. We also model distribution and population changes in single endangered species, using detailed population data from the field together with other sources (such as satellite images) to predict the effects of environmental change.
Great Bustard conservation in Europe
The great bustard (Otis tarda) is globally vulnerable and the global population is declining. It has experienced severe habitat degradation throughout its range causing fragmentation, population declines and local extinctions. The great bustard became extinct in the UK over 150 years ago and in 2004 the Great Bustard Group started the first releases of captive reared great bustards with the aim of reintroducing a self-sustaining population. The University of Bath is a part of the Great Bustard Consortium, along with the Great Bustard Group, the RSPB and Natural England which aims to inform and monitor progress in the UK great bustard reintroduction. Collaborative work is also being carried out on the conservation and management of great bustards in Hungary (Hortobagy National Park) and the Russian Federation (Severstov Institute, Saratov).
Conservation of island species
Island species are often very different from their continental relatives, expressing different morphologies, life-histories and behaviours. They are also many times more likely to be extinct or threatened with extinction, whether they are birds, mammals, invertebrates, plants or other groups. We have field projects on various islands and island groups including the Cape Verde Islands, St Helena, Madagascar and the Falkland Islands, and we are studying life-histories, population dynamics and interactions with introduced predators in several island populations (various taxa) in order understand variation in extinction risk, and ultimately to inform effective conservation action.