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The impacts of forestry on breeding curlew distribution – a report to the Forestry Commission

McGrory, Roisin; Briers, Rob; Findlay, Melanie; White, Patrick


Roisin McGrory

Melanie Findlay


We were commissioned by Forestry Commission (FC) to utilise the large-scale Breeding Waders of English Upland Farmland (BWEUF) data and the wider literature to provide evidence for several questions posed by the Curlew Recovery Partnership relating to impacts of forestry on breeding Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata and inform the evidence base for guidelines relating to assessing the impact of new woodland creation on breeding waders in England.

We used a range of spatial datasets to derive variables relating to land use and management, terrain, forest type and forest configuration within 1 km and 500m of >32,000 inbye fields across >400 tetrads and investigated their impact on probability of presence of curlew.

Broadleaf woodland made up the majority of forests in our analysis and the amount of broadleaf woodland within both 1km and 500 m of inbye fields was negatively associated with probability of curlew presence. However, this pattern was less strong where there was more non-woodland semi-natural habitats (e.g. grassland, heath and bog) close to the field, at higher altitudes and, for 500 m only, where there was moorland management in place or the topography was flatter. Within 1km, the number of forest patches was also negatively associated with curlew presence, particularly at lower altitudes.

Our work informs several sections of the guidelines, in some cases providing supporting evidence, in others urging caution. Our work supports the presumption of preventing woodland creation within 1 km of important sites for waders (such as SSSIs) and that slopes of >20° are unlikely to hold breeding curlew populations. However, aspects of the guidance that suggest lower risk of new woodland or patches of woodland that do not extend the “predator shadow” may need caution since they are still likely to increase amount (and, depending on scheme, number of patches) of woodland. Our results did not support the view that woodland out of sightlines is of less risk.

Our results may suggest that where ‘high wildlife value’ broadleaf woodland creation is considered (which under current guidelines is a positive factor in determining suitability of woodland creation), other non-woodland semi-natural habitat creation might be considered in addition to the woodland to buffer any possible future negative impacts on curlews.

Our analysis has made progress towards the research questions posed by the curlew recovery partnership, and we suggest future research directions to address these further.

Report Type Research Report
Acceptance Date Jul 19, 2023
Publication Date Jan 23, 2024
Deposit Date Aug 11, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 23, 2024
Publisher Edinburgh Napier University
Public URL


The impacts of forestry on breeding curlew distribution – a report to the Forestry Commission (1.6 Mb)

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