Skip to main content
padlock icon - secure page this page is secure

An individual behaviour-based model can predict shorebird mortality using routinely collected shellfishery data

Buy Article:

$52.00 + tax (Refund Policy)


• The debate over the interaction between shellfishing and shorebirds is long-running. Behaviour-based models predict how animal populations are influenced by environmental change from the behavioural responses of individual animals to this change. These models are a potential tool for addressing shellfishery problems, but to be of value they must produce reliable predictions using data that are readily available or can be collected relatively quickly.

• We parameterized a behaviour-based model for the oystercatcher population of the Wash, UK, for 1990–99 using data from shellfishery (mussels and cockles), shorebird and climate monitoring schemes. During the 1990s the overwinter mortality rates of Wash oystercatchers varied widely. The model correctly identified the years in which the observed overwinter mortality was either low (1–2%) or high (10–26%) from annual variation in the food supply, oystercatcher population size and temperature.

• Many oystercatchers were observed and predicted to die when only a fraction of the available food was consumed. Within the model at least, this was because interference competition excluded the least dominant birds from part of the food supply and the least efficient foragers died before the food supply was fully depleted. A simplified model, which excluded interference and individual variation, incorrectly predicted that all birds survived in all years. Models that exclude these two components of behaviour will tend to underestimate the effect of mussel and cockle food shortage on oystercatchers. Shellfishery management based on such predictions may cause high oystercatcher mortality rates even though enough food would appear to be reserved for the birds.

Synthesis and applications. This study shows how a behaviour-based model can be parameterized and predict annual variation in oystercatcher mortality using data routinely collected from the Wash. The principle on which the model is based, that animals behave in order to maximize their chances of survival and reproduction, applies to any system, and the shellfishery, bird and climate data used to parameterize the model are widely available. The model can be used to advise how to manage shellfisheries, by predicting the proportion of the stock that needs to remain unfished in order to maintain low oystercatcher mortality rates. Journal of Applied Ecology (2003) 40, 1090–1101
No References
No Citations
No Supplementary Data
No Article Media
No Metrics

Keywords: cockle Cerastoderma edule; mussel Mytilus edulis; optimal foraging behaviour; oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2003

  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more