Print page

Environmental determinants of dotterel population change

Dotterel in montane habitat

Climate change is regarded as a major threat to birds and other biodiversity. In particular, birds of montane habitats may be especially susceptible to climate change impacts, as they have restricted opportunities to move to higher elevations to find suitable climate space.

Despite this, however, relative little is known about the effects of climate change on montane birds and the mechanisms through which these might operate.

The dotterel is one of the UK’s few truly montane bird species. It breeds primarily in mountainous regions of Scotland, favouring Racomitrium moss heaths at altitudes of 800 m or more, and migrates to areas of North Africa during the winter.

The distribution, abundance and breeding ecology of the dotterel has been well-studied in Scotland in previous decades, and the aim of this project is to use this unique dataset to investigate the consequences of climate change for montane birds. By studying these effects, our aim is to be able to implement conservation management measures that ameliorate climate change impacts.

Project objectives

  • Determine if climate change has influenced the distribution or abundance of dotterels at montane sites in recent decades.
  • Collect information on the breeding ecology of the dotterel to assess any temporal changes in productivity.
  • Monitor the timing and availability of important insect prey, examining whether climate change potentially impacts dotterels through prey.

Work planned or underway

A pilot project is being undertaken in the summer of 2012, and it is expected that this will lead into a three-year studentship beginning in October 2012.

Who to contact

Dr Steven Ewing
Senior Conservation Scientist


Scottish Natural Heritage

Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability at Aberdeen University

Bird guide