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European nightjar and upland plantation woodland management

Shewring, Michael 2021. European nightjar and upland plantation woodland management. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Plantation woodland is increasing in extent globally and as a proportion of global forest cover. Plantation woodland is not only an important element of the U.K. economy, but also is an important woodland habitat in the U.K., given the pre-historic and historic loss of woodland cover. Woodland policy aspirations in the U.K. are currently heavily focused on increasing woodland extent, coupled with maximising the ecosystem services delivered by these habitats, including the provision of renewable energy developments and increasing the provision of biodiversity services. Such broad management objectives often necessitate trade-offs, where management to deliver different desired outcomes conflict. This thesis focuses on the conservation management of European nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus and is intended to inform the development of evidence-based conservation interventions that can support nightjar and the moth species on which they feed, in plantation coniferous woodland and in particular in the Welsh Government Woodland Estate. Specifically, I use European nightjar life history parameters (e.g. nest success) and movement data, to explore nightjar ecology in areas of changing land use and management. In order to inform subsequent nest success analysis a comparison of the observed nesting success of tagged birds and untagged birds, whilst controlling for the potential confounding effects of weather, is used to explore and confirm the lack of observed tag effects on measures of nest success (e.g. fledging success) in nightjar breeding at Brechfa Forest Wind Farm (South Wales, UK). Moth diversity and biomass data from open habitats within forests across a gradient of ages, is then used to confirm the importance of native vegetation primary productivity and stand management in driving moth biomass and diversity. Moth biomass is then combined with GPS tag movement data to explore nightjar foraging behaviour within the forest matrix. This analysis confirms that nightjar movement is driven by spatial and temporal variation in the availability of moth biomass. Nest record data from sites across Wales is then used to explore the potential for wind farm construction disturbance effects on nest success (e.g. fledging success). Alongside this, I also examine the role of habitat management and foraging habitat availability. Overall, my results show that forest management can have significant effects on both nightjar nest success, movement and food (moth) availability. I also show that forest management has an important effect on the presence or absence of moths of conservation concern. These results also confirm that modifications to the spatial and temporal patterns of forest management can be used to support the conservation of both moths and nightjar, with likely cascading benefits for other aerial insectivores.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 October 2022
Date of Acceptance: 21 October 2022
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2022 14:01

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