Bird tracking and associated vegetation surveys


Bird tracking helps us to understand how selective and mobile birds are, especially where they are using patchy habitats and where outside pressures like disturbance and tidal cycles affect their behaviour. The British Trust for Ornithology will lead the ECHOES project bird tracking, working closely with stakeholders and will tag and track two species: the invertebrate-feeding Eurasian Curlew and the grazing Greenland White-fronted Goose (GWfG), in both Ireland and Wales.

Using this approach, we can minimise disturbance while keeping a close eye on what habitats the birds prefer and, importantly, better understand their food supply within habitats like mudflats, saltmarsh and pastures. Informed by both the tag data and direct observations, the molecular biologists at Aberystwyth University will collect goose droppings for analysis with DNA meta-barcoding to identify the plant species consumed by individual geese.

Field botanists from Aberystwyth University will survey the occurrence of plants that feature in GWfG diet and gather evidence of particular plant parts consumed at foraged locations, guided by the tracking information and field observations of GWfG. The nutritional value of samples of each kind of plant material will be analysed using biochemical techniques in the Aberystwyth University Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences laboratories. Invertebrates will be surveyed in soil and mudflats to generate similar information for Curlew.

Information generated by the ECHOES project will be very useful for site managers and scientists in understanding the location, extent and contribution to diet of the different habitat patches. This will inform them as to how the vegetation might best be managed to help ensure healthy and viable populations of these wintering birds, and to mitigate impacts on key intertidal habitats that may be subject to projected sea level rise.

Lead: Aberystwyth University

Bird species distribution modelling across coastal habitats


Species Distribution Modelling (SDM) quantitatively assesses the relationship between species and environmental data using a range of modelling frameworks to understand and predict the distribution of species in both current and future geographic space. Statisticians and ecologists at Aberystwyth University working with a Geographic Information System (GIS) and spatial analysis specialists at University College Cork will carry out SDM on a range of datasets (including national surveys, citizen science projects, and telemetry data collected as part of the ECHOES project) for Eurasian curlew and Greenland White-fronted Goose.

SDM will offer insights into how the distributions of the two bird species vary across a range of geospatial variables. In addition, field survey data will be collected for both species including spatial information on their diet enabling scientists to build SDMs that will tell us about the habitat preferences of these species along the coast. Factoring climate prediction scenarios and land cover change into the SDMs will help to establish how the spatial and temporal distributions of the species may be changing over a time period of several decades.

Lead: Aberystwyth University

Habitat and land cover mapping


The ECHOES project will generate a set of habitat/land cover maps from open source Earth Observation imagery based on a machine learning approach, for the areas studied in both Ireland and Wales. Working closely with those collecting vegetation data in the field, modellers will define the standards and resolution of the maps that will be compatible with the Species Distribution Modelling (SDM) activities. The ECHOES project will also look into automating the process of identifying change to the habitats/land cover to assess the dynamics of change at the field sites. The ECHOES team will work with stakeholders to ensure that the processes, tools and outputs generated will be relevant and appropriate, and accessible through the public facing ECHOES platform. 

Lead: University College Cork

Climate projections


The ECHOES project is underpinned by the need to understand the The ECHOES project is underpinned by the need to understand the potential impacts of climate change on the distribution of wetland habitats along the Irish Sea coast, with a particular focus on those of the Eurasian Curlew and Greenland White-fronted Goose. Based on the existing regional distribution of habitats and species assessment activities, information on climate change scenarios will be combined with bio-climatic data to assess the vulnerability of the existing habitats. This information will be used to identify habitats that are particularly susceptible to projected climate change and to identify species with high extinction probability. The potential for habitats to change in the future and become more suitable for wetland bird habitats will also be explored. Tools for site managers to understand the impacts of climate change on their site will be made accessible through the ECHOES platform. 

Lead: University College Cork

Stakeholder engagement


Throughout the ECHOES project, the team will be reaching out to those who enjoy, live and work near our study sites and those who are part of coastal communities up and down the Irish Sea coast. An overarching goal of the project is to raise awareness of the potential impacts of climate change and our shared challenges and opportunities. The ECHOES team will look to engage with existing groups using technology, events and workshops from schools to volunteer groups to build a picture of our current shared understanding and to inform everyone about how the project is going and what we are finding along the way. Other engagement will be with potential users of the ECHOES platform such as those involved in the management and conservation of birds and habitat along coastal sites and those making policy to protect these areas. The team will work together to gather ideas and requirements of these user groups to feed into the tools and information that will be made available through the ECHOES platform. 

Lead: Geo Smart Decisions

Web Platform – Tools Design and Development


The ECHOES platform will be developed with the end-user in mind from the start; understanding the potential needs and requirements of users and stakeholders will be key to this. User requirements gathering will be driven by our stakeholder engagement work and the ECHOES team will present ideas as visuals and demos to spark imagination and generate a set of what will be useful and informative tools and processes offered on the platform. Ultimately the platform will enable a better understanding of the impacts of climate change on coastal habitats along the Irish Sea, as well as provide tools for users to make more informed decisions and manage actions for these sites, with particular regard for maintaining healthy and viable populations of wetland birds along the coast of Ireland and Wales. 

Lead: Compass Informatics