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New methodology will collect data along the flyway for the Red-breasted Goose

A new monitoring methodology will try to encompass the monitoring schemes along the flyway of the Red-breasted Goose and set a new structured systematic work to collect vital data on the population of the species. This is part of the activities implemented within the framwork of the recently launched LIFE project "LIFE for Safe Flight".

Effective, long-term pressure-state-response monitoring is fundamental to successful management of a threatened species. This project will develop a co-ordinated, locally managed monitoring system focused on the Red-breasted goose, as a priority species. However, the monitoring activities will allow greatly improved reporting on the status of other associated species as well. This action directly links to Result 7 from the AEWA SSAP - The species’ status and the effect of action plan implementation, assessed by monitoring numbers and demography. The monitoring scheme will be the actual tool to assess the impact of the implementation of the AEWA SSAP on the target species population and assess any need of change of its conservation status in positive or negative respect. In the context of the implementation of the SSAP, it is important that long-term systems are established to detect whether conservation efforts are succeeding in terms of reducing threats and improving the state of the population and its habitat, which currently is not in place.

In order to increase the effectiveness and speed with which policy can be evaluated and problems diagnosed, this system needs to go beyond merely counting geese, to incorporate demographic variables, and pressure and response variables. Consequently, if numbers of geese fall in future, it will be possible to determine whether this is due to declining productivity or to declining survival, and hence where the problems are likely to be occurring; and it will be possible to correlate the decline with changes in threats, to provide preliminary diagnosis of which factors are driving declines

An international expert - Dr. Rob Sheldon, has been contracted to develop the monitoring scheme. He has worked in nature conservation for almost 20 years, including 12 years with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Since 2013, he has been the Chairman of the Ornithological Society of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia (OSME). Most recently he has worked for the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) as the Director of the King Khalid Wildlife Research Centre (KKWRC) in Saudi Arabia. He now works freelance as a consultant through RDS Conservation.

In the middle of January, Dr. Rob Sheldon, accompanied by teams of the Romanian Ornithological Society and the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, made a multisite field tour of the main staging sites for the Red-breasted Goose in the two neighboring countries. Thus the international expert acquainted himself with the specificities of the sites and the specifics of the monitoring activities in Bulgaria and Romania.

Dr. Sheldon’s visit to Romania and Bulgaria was the start of one of the most important activities of the LIFE for Safe Flight Project lead by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds in partnership with ten other partner organisations and institutions in the countries from the flyway of the Red-breasted Goose – Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Romania and Bulgaria, co-funded by the EU’s LIFE program.

The new methodology and the future data gathered through it will make a significant contribution to meeting the objectives of the AEWA International Plan of Action for Red-breasted Goose and will help to provide more precise and accurate information on population changes in species and specific threats to the sites, etc. This will allow for a more realistic assessment of the conservation status of the Red-breasted Goose, which has been a major problem in recent years due to contradictory data from different parts of the species flyway.

LIFE Project team mebers with Rob Sheldon at a Project site in Romania
Dr. Rob Sheldon during IWC count in Bulgaria
Red-breasted Geese - © Nicky Petkov/NaturePhotos.eu