Mapping foraging habitat for migratory shorebirds in their Australian non-breeding grounds and prioritising sites for conservation and management
Lisson, A, Taffs, KH & Christidis, L 2017, 'Mapping foraging habitat for migratory shorebirds in their Australian non-breeding grounds and prioritising sites for conservation and management', Pacific Conservation Biology, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 32-42.
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Shorebird populations are declining worldwide as a result of the loss of the intertidal habitats upon which they depend. Conservation status is particularly dire for shorebirds on the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. While the flyway transects many international boundaries and involves numerous bilateral conservation agreements, management of remaining habitat at a local scale is imperative to conserving these species. Coastal habitat is affected by multiple anthropogenic stressors, including loss and degradation due to increasing demand for coastal land. In Australia, migration coincides with the summer holiday season when shorebirds are significantly impacted by human disturbance. Managers are frequently required to make trade-offs between wildlife conservation and anthropogenic land uses and when specific quantitative shorebird habitat data and mapping are absent, human interests will naturally take precedence. This paper demonstrates a method for mapping and prioritising management of shorebird non-breeding habitat using an Australian coastal site, the Richmond River estuary. Foraging habitat was surveyed and mapped using GIS with a range of attributes including habitat types, foraging values, disturbance levels and specific foraging distribution of each species. The results highlighted several important foraging areas that were impacted by disturbance and would require intervening management actions to reduce impacts on shorebirds. The GIS data created provide local managers with an effective tool to consider shorebird habitat in the decision-making process. This method could be replicated at other important shorebird habitat sites, leading to enhanced conservation of these declining species.