Can we predict impacts of environmental change from knowledge of behavioural decisions?


One of the great environmental challenges of the 21st century will be to understand and predict how the natural world we all depend on for food, clean water and air will respond to climate and other environmental changes. It has long been established that declines in animal populations can indicate the presence of serious environmental problems before they begin to affect the human population. Population sizes of our common birds are already used by the UK & Scottish Government as a national indicator for the health of our natural environments and so they make a good focus for evaluating new approaches to predicting impacts of change. This project uses a ground-breaking combination of behavioural risk trade-off theory, field experiments at the Scottish Centre for the Ecology and the Natural Environment and existing large scale national data sets to develop our understanding of how behaviours of wild birds respond to changing environmental conditions and how changes in individual behaviours impact on populations and ecosystems. The results are improving our ability to assess and predict the course of future changes in our environments.