Dunlin in the Flow Country
Abstract from the Journal of Applied Ecology
22nd July 1996
In Northern Scotland the extensive peatland ecosystem, known as the Flow Country, has been damaged by afforestation. It is an exceptionally rich area for upland birds and has important breeding populations of Dunlin.
Writing in the Journal of Applied Ecology (33, 279-290) two scientists from Nottingham University (Lavers and Haines-Young) with Mark Avery of the RSPB report on a way of predicting which habitats are going to be best for them. Earlier there had been some work which showed that satellite imaging using near-infrared reflectivity predicted Dunlin abundance well - low reflectivity means lots of Dunlin; high means few.
Dunlin like wet areas with pools, and water absorbs near-infrared radiation - so there was the view that moorland with many pool systems would have good numbers of Dunlin. But the low reflectivity was not very much influenced by the amount of pool surface available but is very much influenced by the habitat available between the pools.
In fact the Dunlin do like pool systems but the reflectivity is not determined by this part of the habitat. This is rather puzzling as the birds are not using this area much!
This is a seemingly academic study but with very important real worth. It is on studies such at this that the conservation of this important region will depend.