Ecology and Management of Gamebirds.
This book is about the application of science to the conservation and management of animal populations in the wild. We have chosen examples largely from the world of British gamebirds, partly because this is the subject on which we have both worked for a number of years, and partly because we believe they exemplify how an understanding of empirical theories can be applied to improve the abundance of species.
Environmental issues have become increasingly important in the world of politics and amongst the population at large. More and more frequently a 'scientist', 'ecologist' or 'conservationist' appears in the media giving their solution to yet another ecological crisis or passing emotive comment on some environmental issue. Sadly, few such scientists have had exposure to the practical problems of dealing with species extinction, habitat destruction or whatever problem may be under debate. Similarly, those faced with protecting natural resources on a day-to-day basis rarely think of, or turn to science for a solution. This is not true, however, in the world of gamebird ecology and management where, as we hope this volume demonstrates, an application of the principles of ecology has been of practical use in the conservation of wild populations. We hope that these examples will rekindle the enthusiasm of those scientists and conservationists in other disciplines.
Each chapter of this book reviews the theoretical background to a particular field of ecology, be it predation, harvesting strategies, or whatever, and then provides empirical evidence to support that theory from studies of gamebirds. The contributors then go on to discuss the implications of both the theory itself and the evidence presented for the management of gamebirds and their habitat, whenever possible citing specific examples of where a knowledge of ecology has directly led to the enhancement of gamebird numbers.
The chapters themselves have been arranged in order first to introduce the reader to gamebirds and their ecology and, second, to deal with specific ecological processes affecting populations. This leads to the final analyses which show how, by bringing together these various processes in various forms of mathematical model, wise management and harvesting strategies can be optimized. Thus Chapter 1 is an introduction to what is meant by the terms gamebird, ecology and conservation. This is followed by a description of the habitats in which British gamebirds live and some of the environmental changes taking place within these areas. The following two chapters provide analytical descriptions and reviews of general population changes in gamebirds and gamebird life history strategies (factors affecting survival, recruitment and productivity). A knowledge of each of these subjects is necessary as a prelude to examining the relationships between ecological processes and management. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 each deal with predation, parasites and habitat quality respectively, all of which can be closely and directly related to management but within the constraints set by the birds' mating systems (Chapter 7). Chapter 8 assesses the value of harvesting theories in determining maximum sustainable yields and the final chapter examines the value of population simulation models and other types of mathematical modelling tools for determining good gamebird management strategies.
Many people read, commented and helped us with the job of editing. We particularly wish to thank Dick Potts, Des Thompson, Sir Richard Southwood and David Newborn for their generous and rapid response to our multitude of requests. Many of the authors helped referee the contributions by the others but we should also like to thank Kate Lessels, Adam Watson, Rhys Green, Robert Moss and Trevor Lewis. Most people in the Game Conservancy helped in one way or another and we would like to offer our sincere thanks to Richard Van Oss, Mike Swan, Caroline Hunt, Patsy Hitchings and Corinne Duggins. Our wives, Mary Hudson and Gillian Rands deserve special thanks and we are also very grateful to Richard Miles and Julian Grover of BSP Professional Books for their tolerance and efficiency.
Our intention with this volume is to present an integrated review of the relationship between the ecology of a group of species and their management. It is aimed at all those interested in the application of ecology to conservation be they students of ecology or agriculture or conservationists, farmers or land managers with an interest in the scientific management of wildlife populations. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed our roles as editors.