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Data from: Inter-specific variation in the potential for upland rush management advocated by agri-environment schemes to increase breeding wader densities

Citation

Kelly, Leah; Douglas, David; Shurmer, Mike; Evans, Karl (2021), Data from: Inter-specific variation in the potential for upland rush management advocated by agri-environment schemes to increase breeding wader densities, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5dv41ns74

Abstract

Encroachment of rush Juncus spp. in the United Kingdom uplands poses a threat to declining wader populations due to taller, denser swards that can limit foraging and breeding habitat quality for some species. Rush management via cutting, implemented through agri-environment schemes (AESs), could thus increase wader abundance, but there is insufficient assessment and understanding of how rush management influences upland waders. Across two upland regions of England [South West Peak (SWP) and Geltsdale nature reserve, Cumbria], we surveyed waders over four visits in fields where rush was managed according to AES prescriptions (treatment; n = 21) and fields without rush management that were otherwise ecologically similar (control; n = 22) to assess how the densities of breeding wader pairs respond to rush management in the short-term. We find evidence for regional variation in the response of waders to rush management, with densities of Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago significantly higher in treatment than control fields in the SWP, but not Geltsdale. There were no statistically significant responses to treatment on densities of Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata or Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. The 95% confidence intervals for the treatment parameter estimates suggest that this may be due to limited statistical power in the case of Lapwing. For Curlew, however, any potential increases in densities are negligible. There was no evidence that variation in rush cover, which ranged from 10 to 70%, influenced densities of any of our three focal species. Our results suggest that rush management through AES prescriptions delivered in isolation of other interventions may not lead to general increases in breeding wader densities in the short-term, but benefits may arise in some situations due to regional and inter-specific variation in effectiveness. Rush management supported with interventions that improve soil conditions and thus food availability, or reduce predation pressure, may enable AES rush management to generate benefits. Additional research is required to maximise the potential benefits of rush management for each species through the development of prescriptions that tailor to individual species’ optimum sward structure.

Usage Notes

WaderPairsData.xlsx

Dataset for analyses of breeding wader pair densities in treatment fields with rush management and control fields without rush management. Each row is a field. Metadata is available in the second sheet of the WaderPairsData.xlsx file and in the README_WaderPairsData.txt file.