Kentish plover DSS

2000, , The Netherlands

In order to design and evaluate effective policies aimed at restoring habitats for precious species, coastal zone managers have a need for understanding the particulars of the species, but also of the complex relationships between the species, its habitat and the environmental factors shaping and changing the habitat. In general knowledge is available about the species and its interaction with isolated environmental factors, but much less is know about the dynamics of the environment, as an integrated whole, and its effects on the species.

The Kentish plover DSS (Strandplevier-BOS) has been developed as part of the RuimtEcol project and the GEOMOD project of the National Institute for Marine and Coastal Management.

  • The aim of the RuimtEcol project is to provide a better insight in the importance of the spatial configuration of ecotopes and the use of ecotopes by species in the coastal waters of the Netherlands. Based on this knowledge, recommendations are formulated relative to the location of nature restoration projects.

  • The aim of the GEOMOD project is to extend the spatial modelling capabilities of coastal zone managers. To that effect new spatial modelling techniques are researched and delivered to policy makers as part of integrated models and decision support systems.

The Kentish plover DSS is a prototype of a more elaborate system. It is applied to the Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) in the Rhine-Scheldt Delta. It makes extensive use of the rich knowledge and databases about the behaviour of this bird species, collected over the past years. However, the methodology is generic and could be applied equally well to other species in other coastal areas for which the same data and information are available.

The Kentish plover DSS features a model in which the autecology of the Kentish plover is represented in interaction with the dynamic environment in which it lives. With this Individual Based Model, it is possible to study the spatial distribution of the Kentish plover as a function of the spatial distribution of suitable breeding biotopes, the presence of human activities in the Rhine-Scheldt Delta, and variations in the abiotic environment such as flooding and cold spells. The model features the full life cycle of all the individuals of the species living in the Delta from the spring till the autumn.

The abiotic conditions and environmental factors, including vegetation cover and predation, determine the breeding success of the birds. But so does flooding of the nesting sites due to wind and tidal movements, as well as extended cold and rainy weather.

The influence of man is mostly disturbance exerted as part of recreational activities and management interventions in the breeding areas.

The Decision Support System enables to study the evolution of the size of the population and its spatial distribution throughout the Delta as the result of scenarios defined and tried out interactively by the analysts. The model calculates in daily time steps and simulates a period of 10 years. The study area covers 6400 km2, and the spatial resolution of the system is the 25 m grid. Thus, no less than 10 million spatial entities are modelled.