BirdCast webtool launches
New webtool enables land managers to estimate the birds present in woodlands on farms.
This week we launched our new Sustainable Farms online tool, BirdCast. BirdCast is a planning tool for farmers and NRM practitioners that can be used to indicate which bird species may live in woodland areas on farms.
BirdCast is unique because it enables decades of research undertaken on farms by the Sustainable Farms team to be accessed in an interactive way by farmers and NRM practitioners, to help inform on-farm decision making around remnant management and revegetation.
The BirdCast tool draws on nearly two decades of data on more than sixty birds. The tool allows the user to assess the potential for enhancing bird diversity in a range of scenarios.
“With many species of native wildlife under threat and biodiversity declining worldwide, farmers have an opportunity to contribute to protecting woodland areas on farms, thereby creating habitat for a number of species,” Sustainable Farms Lead Scientist Professor David Lindenmayer said. “The BirdCast tool enables farmers to predict what birds might utilise woodland areas on their farm, and to understand how bird occupancy might change under a range of scenarios.
“It gives land managers a solid indication of how their own changes in management might have a real-world impact on biodiversity.”
BirdCast is based on a statistical model drawing on 17 years of empirical data on 62 bird species in individual woodland areas. The estimates it creates are suitable for remnant Box Gum Grassy Woodland or planted eucalypt woodland (often shelterbelts) on grazing or mixed farms in the NSW South West Slopes and parts of the Central West, Murray-Riverina and north east Victoria. Five species of conservation concern are included in these estimates.
“It can sometimes be challenging for the people who are the stewards of our amazing landscapes to access real science to inform their decisions,” Professor Lindenmayer said. “It’s absolutely vital that wildlife is monitored over timescales of decades, not just years, so that we can understand the impact that land management changes, climate and other factors have on our wildlife. This tool is a direct output of this long-term monitoring, with real-world impacts for farmers making decisions about their land.”
BirdCast has been in development for nearly two years, as part of a collaborative project with support from Meat and Livestock Australia. The model and web interface was built by statistician Kassel Hingee. BirdLife Photography provided the bird photos used in the app. Sustainable Farms ecologist Angelina Siegrist used an earlier version of the app to consult with a range of NRM staff and farmers, and the final version takes into account their feedback and suggestions.
It is anticipated that BirdCast will be a particularly useful for NRM organisations and Landcare groups who are working alongside farmers to improve woodlands on farms.
BirdCast also provides the option for users to export reports based on the information they input into the app.