Now showing 1 - 10 of 20
  • Publication
    Survey evaluation for species richness of farmland birds
    To estimate biodiversity it may be important to establish whether increased data can be obtained from repeated surveys. Bird species richness was determined after repeated surveys in winter and in the breeding season. Data were collected over two breeding seasons and two winter seasons at nine sites, with three surveys in each winter and four surveys in each breeding season using a standard method. Poisson models were used to determine differences in total cumulative species richness recorded after each additional survey. There were significant increases in species richness in winter between survey one and survey two and between survey two and survey three across nine sites. There was a significant increase between survey one and survey two for resident breeding species richness. Based on pure species richness, three surveys recorded at least 95% of the total observed species richness recorded after four surveys in the breeding season within the agricultural survey area.
  • Publication
    Evaluation of Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) habitat in the Connemara National Park
    The Red Grouse is a red-listed species and as such is of conservation concern in Ireland. These species are typically breeding birds which have been in rapid decline over the last 25 years or whose populations have been severely reduced over the last 100 years (Newton et al. 1999). This study investigated the habitats that were utilised by grouse in the Connemara National Park from mid June to August 2005. Three sites were surveyed within the Park, each covering an area of 250m x 250m. Two of these sites contained evidence of grouse utilising the area (such as feathers and droppings) and a control site containing no evidence of utilisation by grouse. Each of the sites was surveyed for heather percentage cover, maximum heather height and growth form as well as its invertebrate fauna. Grouse diet was also studied by analysis of droppings. The percentage cover of heather and the maximum heather height on the sites with grouse was found to be higher than that of the control site. The total numerical abundances of ground beetles (Order Coleoptera, Family Carabidae), per site were not significantly different but differences were apparent among other invertebrate groups between the control and the sites with grouse. Analysis of the droppings showed that their diet consisted mostly of Ling Heather which made up 84% of all fragments in the droppings. Bell Heather and Cross-leaved Heath were the next most abundant items with 4.4% and 2.2% respectively. Material other than heather constituted 1.4% of the diet with the remaining 8.2% of the fragments remaining unidentified.
  • Publication
    Irish agriculture and farmland birds, research to date and future priorities
    (BirdWatch Ireland, 2007-12)
    Of the total land area of Ireland, 62% is devoted to agricultural production, thus highlighting the importance of this land use to biodiversity. European farmland birds have experienced rapid decline in the last thirty years. This is emphasised by the fact that lowland farmland provides breeding or wintering habitat to over 120 bird species of European Conservation Concern and this constitutes the largest number supported by any habitat. Of the18 species of birds that are of high conservation concern in Ireland, 13 are associated with agricultural habitats. Extensive research has been carried out in the UK and Europe to establish the cause and how to reverse the decline in farmland birds. A limited amount of work has been carried out in Ireland; however more work is required as it cannot be assumed that findings relating to the farmland bird ecology in the UK and Europe will apply in the Irish situation. It is apparent that extensification of agriculture through the vehicle of agri-environmental schemes is the method of choice to reverse the declines in bird diversity in farmland both in Europe and Ireland. It is the responsibility of policy, conservation and agricultural production agencies to embrace these schemes in order to optimise production and reverse the declines in Irish farmland birds.
  • Publication
    A novel method for quantifying overdispersion in count data with application to farmland birds
    The statistical modelling of count data permeates the discipline of ecology. Such data often exhibit overdispersion compared with a standard Poisson distribution, so that the variance of the counts is greater than that of the mean. Whereas modelling to reveal the effects of explanatory variables on the mean is commonplace, overdispersion is generally regarded as a nuisance parameter to be accounted for and subsequently ignored. Instead, we propose a method that models the overdispersion as a biologically interesting property of a data set and show how novel inference is provided as a result. We adapted the double hierarchical generalized linear model approach to create an easily extendible model structure that quantifies the influence of explanatory variables on the overdispersion of count data, and apply it to farmland birds. These data were from a study within Irish agricultural ecosystems, in which total bird species abundance and the abundance of farmland indicator species were compared on dairy and non-dairy farms in the winter and breeding seasons. In general, overdispersion in bird counts was greater on dairy farms than on non-dairy farms, and for total bird numbers, overdispersion was greatest on dairy farms in winter. Our code is fitted using the Bayesian package Rstan, and we make all code and data available in a GitHub repository. Within a Bayesian framework, this approach facilitates a meaningful quantification of the effects of categorical explanatory variables on any response variable with a tendency to overdispersion that has a meaningful biological or ecological explanation.
      339Scopus© Citations 3
  • Publication
    Squirrelpox virus reservoir expansion on the east coast of Ireland
    The European red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) has suffered a 20 % decline in range in Ireland since the introduction of the eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in 1911. In the UK, squirrelpox virus (SQPV) has been identified as being a major contributor to the decline of red squirrel populations but has only recently been confirmed in a red squirrel from Wicklow in Ireland with anecdotal references to a previous outbreak in the Shankill area of south County Dublin and a case in Kilmacanogue, north County Wicklow. The current study examined a sample of grey squirrels from these areas for SQPV seroprevalence. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) tests were carried out on sera from 51 grey squirrels culled from two sites in south County Dublin, areas A and B, and a third site in north County Wicklow, area C. The results indicated declining SQPV seroprevalence rates moving northwards from Wicklow, 55 % in area C, 50 % in area B and 11 % in area A. The low levels of seropositivity in Killiney (A) suggest that this is the wave-front of grey squirrel expansion from Wicklow and that the population may not yet have reached the threshold density for SQPV transmission to the red squirrel population to occur. The results of this study indicate that there is potential overlap between seropositive grey squirrel populations and susceptible red squirrel populations with obvious implications for conservation and management.
      494Scopus© Citations 2
  • Publication
    Breeding bird populations of Irish peatlands : capsule peatlands are very important habitats for birds despite low species diversity
    (British Trust for Ornithology / Taylor & Francis, 2008) ; ;
    Aims to describe the variation in breeding bird populations that occur on different types of Irish peatlands and their associated habitat characteristics. Methods: Bird abundance and diversity were compared between four peatland habitat types: fens; raised bogs; Atlantic blanket bogs; and montane blanket bogs at twelve study sites using transects. Various measures of habitat quality were also taken at each location. Results: Only 21 species were recorded during the study with Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis and Sky Lark Alauda arvensis accounting for over 80% of all birds recorded. Fens had greater bird species diversity and densities than the other three peatland types. Raised bogs, Atlantic blanket bogs and montane blanket bogs were very similar in terms of their avian diversity. Each of the recorded bird species were associated with different aspects of the peatland habitat. Conclusion: This study shows that despite the relatively low avian species diversity of Irish peatlands, they are of enormous conservation value due to the presence of species of high conservation concern such as Red Grouse (Willow Ptarmigan) Lagopus lagopus and Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata.
      831Scopus© Citations 5
  • Publication
    A scoping review on the prevalence of Shiga-toxigenic Escherichia coli in wild animal species
    Zoonotic pathogens constitute the major source (60.3%) of emerging infectious diseases. Previous studies have investigated the prevalence of Shiga-toxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC) among wild animal species, but comprehensive data are needed to assess the role that these animals have in the transmission of STEC infections to the human population via faecal contamination of the environment, agri-food or water chain. Due to the nature of these microorganisms in which this human-animal-environment interface plays a relevant role on the disease's dynamics, a "One Health" approach is needed to prevent and control the worldwide spread. The aim of this study was to review the published research on the prevalence of STEC in wildlife. The search was performed using several online databases consisting of three blocks of specific search terms covering pathogen, type of study and population. Two reviewers applied the inclusion and exclusion criteria to screening and eligibility phases. Two hundred and twenty-five abstracts were screened for relevance, and 72 were included for data analysis. Most studies (77.8%) investigated the prevalence of STEC in ruminants and urban birds. Their role in transmitting the pathogen to humans, other animals and the agri-food chain is potentiated by the peculiar biological characteristics in ruminants and improved adaptation of urban birds to urban environments. The popularity of convenience and voluntary response sampling may be due to the lack of human-made boundaries on the wild animal species' habitat and having some samples from hunted-harvested animals. To our knowledge, this is the first comprehensive review on STEC prevalence in wild animal species from studies conducted across the globe. We recommend that future research includes and compares samples from varying origins (i.e., human, animal, environment and food) and applies a "One Health" approach to the emerging challenges that STEC poses to public health.
      1219Scopus© Citations 24
  • Publication
    Different bioindicators measured at different spatial scales vary in their response to agricultural intensity
    Ecologically, potential bioindicator taxa operate at different scales within agricultural ecosystems, and thereby provide a means to investigate the influence of changing management practice on biological diversity at different scales within the agro-ecosystem. Surveys of grassland plant species at field level, parasitoid Hymenoptera at the field and farm scale, and bird populations and habitats at farm scale were carried out on 119 grass-based farms across three regions in the Republic of Ireland. In addition, habitat richness and aquatic macroinvertebrates were quantified at landscape scale. Agricultural intensity on the surveyed farms was quantified by mean farm stocking rate, calculated as livestock units per ha (LU/ha), and generalised linear mixed models used to evaluate relationships between stocking rate and the incidence of chosen bioindicator groups. Field scale bioindicators (plant species richness and parasitoid taxon richness and abundance) were negatively associated with mean farm stocking rate. Over much of its observed range, mean farm stocking rate was positively associated with total bird species richness and abundance, and the species richness and abundance of farmland bird indicator species recorded in the winter season. However, these relationships were quadratic, and above a relatively high upper limit of 2.5–3.5 LU/ha, further increase in farm stocking rate had a negative influence. Results demonstrate that different bioindicators measured at different spatial scales vary in their response to agricultural intensity. The lack of a consistent bioindicator response to farm stocking rate suggests that within predominantly farmed regions, maximising biodiversity requires a careful targeting and monitoring with bioindicator taxa that are informative of influences at relevant operational scales. The insights provided may then be much more informative for the design and implementation of agri-environment measures that maximise biodiversity within farmed landscapes.
      1083Scopus© Citations 24
  • Publication
    Soil Stewardship as a nexus between Ecosystem Services and One Health
    We highlight the overlap in Ecosystem Services frameworks and the developing One Health approach, and assert that better integration and communication between these could provide a platform for synergistic research with greater benefits for resilience and health in socioecological systems. Furthermore, we propose that soil stewardship could act as the nexus for such integration and present potential research avenues with existing positive examples.
      404Scopus© Citations 30
  • Publication
    Farmland birds and the field boundary evaluation and grading system in Ireland
    (Faculty of Agriculture, UCD in association with Teagasc, 2005-07) ; ; ;
    Field boundaries are important habitats for birds within the agricultural landscape. In this study, bird surveys were carried out during the winter and breeding season on nine farms in the east and south-east of Ireland and field boundaries at each site were assessed using the Field Boundary Evaluation and Grading System (FBEGS). Poisson regression demonstrated that FBEGS scores were a good predictor of both winter and breeding bird species richness and diversity within the field boundaries studied. We interpret these preliminary results with caution since our sample size was relatively small (compared to the wide variety of field boundary types found in Ireland) and no single combination of field boundary attributes is likely to be optimum for all bird species. However, our results suggest that FBEGS may be a useful surrogate indicator of overall field boundary bird diversity and we discuss the consequent implications for agri-environmental policy, and for the possible adaptation and use of FBEGS as a tool to monitor the impact of changing farm management practice.