This study has cropped up before on this blog (partly because of the unusual secrecy about who funded it – see here and here) and partly because of the fact that it has been ‘quoted’ by grouse shooting interests in the past before it was published. Now it is published and the grouse shooting industry has been very coy about it – I haven’t seen them mention it at all. How odd when they were shouting about it before the data were analysed and published. How could that be?
Also, the researchers involved promised to tell me when the study was published but they haven’t. It must just have slipped their minds.
But what does the paper say? It says that the more predator control there is on grouse moors the more pairs of Red Grouse there are in spring, but that the impacts on numbers of waders are much less. Predator control does appear to help increase wader numbers (as we accept from previous studies) but the maximum impact is reached at far lower levels of predator control than are practised on most grouse moors (at least most grouse moors in their sample – more on the sample later, below). Massive levels of predator control help deliver large bags (or in this study large spring densities) of Red Grouse but very much lower levels of predator control would be fine for waders (Golden Plover, Snipe and Curlew).
This finding is best illustrated by this diagram;
So, predator control does help breeding wader densities on grouse moors (as we know) but the level of predator control practised on those moors is far higher than that which would be necessary to benefit those waders.
How about burning?
This study finds that burning doesn’t make much difference at all to densities of anything on grouse moors – not even Red Grouse apparently. This comes as a bit of a shock to me, but not nearly as much of a shock as it will be to grouse moor managers.
The paper isn’t mealy-mouthed about this;
we found little support for a strong influence of burning on upland bird specieshttps://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ece3.5613
This is just one study but it is quite interesting. Burning isn’t that important? It’s no good for Red Grouse and it’s bad for Snipe, but it’s a bit good for Curlew and good for Golden Plover? That’s a bit of shocker for the grouse shooting industry, isn’t it?
I think I can see why the grouse shooting industry is not shouting about this paper.
A few other points:
- The funders are not disclosed here – merely that the funding came from the Charities Aid Foundation (a reputable body). However, in touting for academic researchers to do this study it was revealed that the source of funding was the grouse shooting industry. If this was so, as I believe it is, then shouldn’t the authors have disclosed this in the conflict of interest section?
- At the moment, although the paper is public access (excellent!) there are no details given of the localities studied or how they were selected. This is a bit unusual. Let us just imagine that the study was funded by grouse shooting interests – what say did they have (eg by enthusiastically offering bits of land for survey) in choosing the study sites? I’ve requested the dataset to see whether that information is disclosed – it should be.
- My statistical acumen is now 20 years out of date, but the fact that there were only ‘really’ 18 sites involved in this survey (and we don’t know how they were chosen) is a bit worrying to me. I’ve read the Methods and Results sections carefully and I can see that there is a load of stuff (which I don’t understand) that addresses the possibility of pseudo-replication but I’d very much value the views of some bright scientists on this.
- I note that the paper was accepted on 3 August this year. I didn’t know that, of course, but I did email one of the authors on 6 August as follows ‘I haven’t heard from you on this paper – is it accepted or published yet please? i note tht we are approaching the Inglorious 12th. many thanks‘ and got an out-of-office reply and no follow up.