The Wash supports an internationally important population of oystercatchers, and also important cockle and mussel fisheries. Mussels and cockles are the major prey of oystercatchers in the Wash. The abundance of these shellfish decreased greatly in the 1990s, and was associated with an increase in the mortality rate of oystercatchers.
Was the increase in oystercatcher mortality caused by the decrease in shellfish abundance, and how could the fishery be managed to minimise any affect on birds.
A model was developed incorporating the oystercatcher and shellfish populations, and the climate. The numbers of oystercatchers were recorded from a national monitoring programme and the abundance and distribution of shellfish from routine shellfishery surveys.
The model accurately predicted the year to year variation in oystercatcher mortality, indicating that food limitation was causing birds to die. The model predicted how the creation of new mussel beds could decrease oystercatcher mortality rate.
Wash UK – Oystercatcher
Stillman, R. A., West, A. D., Goss-Custard, J. D., Caldow, R. W. G., McGrorty, S., Durell, S. E. A. le V. dit, Yates, M., G., Atkinson, P. W., Clark, N. A., Bell, M. C., Dare, P. J. & Mander, M. (2003) An individual behaviour-based model can predict shorebird mortality using routinely collected shellfishery data. Journal of Applied Ecology, 40, 1090-1101.
Wash UK – Shorebirds
West, A. D., Yates, M. G., McGrorty, S. & Stillman, R. A. (2007) Predicting site quality for shorebird communities: a case study on the Wash embayment, UK. Ecological Modelling, 202, 527-539.