He will be looking into the Responses of woodland birds to modified stand structures, with particular attention to ecological patterns and acoustic detections across an ancient woodland matrix. The project is funded by Dorset County Council, Forestry Commission, Dorset Environmental Records Centre and the Golden Bottle Trust.
The aim of this PhD is to identify the fine scale features of a large ancient woodland matrix, which determine the distribution and abundance of key woodland bird species. Novel acoustic methods will be tested to measure occupancy rates and detection probabilities of several bird species.
The objectives are:
1. To identify the habitat features which most strongly influence variation in the richness, distribution and abundance of the woodland bird community.
2. To ascertain threshold values for different bird species in patches across the woodland matrix. This is especially important to understand the influence of novel silvicultural applications being undertaken in the study area.
3. To explore microhabitat characteristics and heterogeneity across the stands using selected woodland birds.
4. To compare manual bird counts with acoustic measures derived from automated recording.
Worked birch coppice, within a ca. 1ha coup showing the dense thicket stage of growth. The produce is used to supply horse racing venues with hurdles.
Sampling using circular plots will be carried out in a minimum number of points representative of the woodland stand management types found within this 800ha ancient semi-natural woodland on the Dorset/Wiltshire border. Bird and habitat measures will be derived to identify the community composition and influence of the structural gradients across the woodland mosaic.
Spotted flycatcher nestlings. This species benefits from
more open structure woodland and has declined
significantly in recent decades in the UK.
Acoustic sampling will be used to provide bird detection measures to model habitat occupancy. Surveys will be undertaken in both winter and summer and abundance estimates calculated using point counts derived from acoustic sampling. Analysis of manual and automated acoustic methods will be carried out using similarity and diversity indices and comparison between detection probabilities will be explored.
Selected specialist birds e.g. marsh tit Poecile palustris and nuthatch Sitta europaea will be studied within a sub-sample of stands. These species maintain year round territories but respond to changes in habitat quality. Automated acoustic detection will be used to identify patch selection within the matrix by these birds through analysis of their contact calls produced when foraging. Multivariate models will be made to predict the likelihood of a species being present based upon the detailed habitat and stand characteristics.
Irregular stand within an ancient woodland showing varied age classes of trees and multiple structured understorey.
A non-intervention stand, formerly coppice with an open lower tier structure.
Danny Alder is funded by