Research into practice: gray partridge (Perdix perdix) restoration in Southern England
The grey partridge Perdix perdix, was once a common breeding bird in Britain and a traditional quarry species. Its numbers have declined by over 90% over the last 50 years, and there have been similar declines across Europe. Since 1968 the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has undertaken research on this decline and identified three main reasons for it in Britain: disappearance of nesting habitat, reduction in area of in brood-rearing habitat and increased pressure from predators. A nature-sparing mindset is not compatible with the conservation of a once-widespread species of farmed land such as the grey partridge, which requires a nature-sharing viewpoint. A grey partridge recovery programme had to be tailored towards farmers and their advisors, requiring scientifically proven, costed, pragmatic and simple solutions. The difficulty is in convincing farmers and land managers to take up the challenge, adopt the conservation package and reverse the decline of this species. An important means of addressing this is providing demonstration sites where farmers can go to see how appropriate and practical management leads to successful restoration of grey partridge numbers. We provide two detailed examples of demonstrations in the UK, concentrating on grey partridge abundance and demography, but also considering the consequences for wider farmland biodiversity. At both demonstration sites the abundance of grey partridges was restored to abundances approaching those of 50 years ago (an average, over ten years, of 11.3 spring pairs/km2 on one site and 13.2 pairs/km2 on the other). Obstacles to a more widespread adoption of the package among UK farmers are discussed as are signposts on how these are being addressed, both in UK and in Europe.