Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Count your chickens (and robins and pigeons ...), urge researchers working to protect birds

Date:
June 2, 2010
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
People could help to prevent species of birds from becoming extinct by recording sightings of all kinds of birds online, including common species, according to a new study.

Woman birdwatching. People could help to prevent species of birds from becoming extinct by recording sightings of all kinds of birds online, including common species.
Credit: iStockphoto

People could help to prevent species of birds from becoming extinct by recording sightings of all kinds of birds online, including common species, according to a new study published in PLoS Biology.

The researchers behind the study, from Imperial College London, are urging the public to become 'citizen scientists' to help prevent today's common bird species from becoming threatened tomorrow.

To establish whether a certain species of bird is at risk of becoming endangered, so that they can act to protect it, scientists need to be able to compare present-day data on the species with a 'biodiversity baseline', describing when and where birds were found in the past.

The new research explores what information is available across Europe and Asia about current populations of gamebirds. It reveals that far less data is currently being collected on common species than in the past, meaning that there is no up-to-date biodiversity baseline for scientists to refer to.

Over the past 30 years, the scientific literature has increasingly concentrated on recording data about species that are endangered and those that live in protected areas of high biodiversity, according to the study. It shows that whereas early museum records dating back two centuries covered all species, including common birds, today scientists collect very little data on common species.

Dr Elizabeth Boakes, lead author of the study from the Division of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, said: "The lack of recent data on common species and areas of low biodiversity is extremely concerning -- we need people's help to record the birds they see, however commonplace, on bird-watching websites. We think this kind of citizen science will be key to future conservation research.

"People may not think that they are helping much by recording the date they saw a pigeon in central London, say, but actually it could make a big difference as we do not know what threats species might encounter in the future. We also urge websites to standardise data entries, for example asking that sightings are directly plotted onto an online map -- it takes a long time to read through people's personal blogs! In this way we can all help to create an accessible, comprehensive and permanent record of biodiversity," added Dr Boakes.

In the new study, researchers from Imperial, The World Pheasant Association at Newcastle University, The University of Queensland and Beijing Forestry University collected over 170,000 records from the last two centuries on 127 species of gamebirds or 'Galliformes', a group that includes pheasants, partridges, chickens and quails, almost a third of which are threatened. The researchers obtained the data from museums, scientific literature, bird ringing records, bird atlases and website reports from birdwatchers.

Their survey of these records showed that museum collections provided a quarter of the data and are invaluable in documenting historical biodiversity. However, the team often came across deteriorating specimens with labels impossible to read. Recent funding cuts mean that many museums are unable to maintain their collections adequately, so these records may be lost in the future.

The team is also worried about the longevity of the 20,000 literature records in the study, many of which are not publicly available as they were published by organisations rather than journals. Ringing records were also hard to access; only seven of the 80 ringing groups the researchers contacted were able to send computerised data.

Data from websites where members of the public record bird sightings accounted for less than one percent of the data the researchers collected, but the team hope that the internet will enable citizen scientists to make a big impact on future biodiversity research.

This research was funded by The Leverhulme Trust and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Data Elizabeth H. Boakes, Philip J. K. McGowan, Richard A. Fuller, Ding Chang-qing, Natalie E. Clark, Kim O'Connor, Georgina M. Mace. Distorted Views of Biodiversity: Spatial and Temporal Bias in Species Occurrence. PLoS Biology, June 1, 2010 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000385

Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "Count your chickens (and robins and pigeons ...), urge researchers working to protect birds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100601171719.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2010, June 2). Count your chickens (and robins and pigeons ...), urge researchers working to protect birds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100601171719.htm
Imperial College London. "Count your chickens (and robins and pigeons ...), urge researchers working to protect birds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100601171719.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins