Skip to main content


Log in

Short-term effects of predator removal and habitat restoration on ground-nesting birds in drained forests

  • Short Communication
  • Published:
Wetlands Ecology and Management Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Artificial drainage of wetlands can increase nest predation risk through landscape changes that support higher predator numbers or expose the nests. We experimentally studied how nest predation responds to reversing such pressures by forested wetland restoration and predator removal. We studied two pairs of experimental and control landscapes in north-eastern (NE) and southwestern (SW) Estonia, where mammalian mesopredators were specifically hunted. Within the SW landscape pair, we simultaneously had a replicated before-after-control-impact experiment of restoring sparse pine wetlands for the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) by ditch blocking and partial cutting. Three years after the habitat manipulations, we found drastically increased predation rates of artificial ground nests across those restoration blocks (including uncut stands there), with no compensating effect of the predator removal. However, outside the experimental blocks of the SW predator removal landscape, higher reproductive success of the hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasia) and capercaillie was recorded after the removal; there was also evidence of improved landscape-scale survival of artificial nests in both the SW and NE removal landscapes. These results indicate that wetland restoration can suppress grouse reproduction at least in the short term, but predator control can mitigate these effects on a broader scale. Restoring habitat quality in forested wetlands is a complex task that requires long-term studies of alternatives and precautionary approaches.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  • Abolina A, Jermacane S, Laivinš M (2001) Post-drainage dynamics of the ground vegetation in a transitional mire. Balt for 7:19–28

    Google Scholar 

  • Angelstam P, Roberge JM, Lõhmus A, Bergmanis M, Brazaitis G, Dönz-Breuss M, Edenius L, Kosinski Z, Kurlavičius P, Larmanis V, Lukins M, Mikusinski G, Račinskis E, Stradzs M, Tryjanowski P (2004) Habitat modelling as a tool for landscape-scale conservation – a review of parameters for focal forest birds. Ecol Bull 51:427–453

    Google Scholar 

  • Bayne EM, Hobson KA, Fargey P (1997) Predation on artificial nests in relation to forest type: Contrasting the use of quail and plasticine eggs. Ecography 20:233–239

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Broome A, Connolly T, Quine CP (2014) An evaluation of thinning to improve habitat for capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus). For Ecol Manag 314:94–103

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burke DM, Elliott K, Moore L, Dunford W, Nol E, Phillips J, Holmes S, Freemark K (2004) Patterns of nest predation on artificial and natural nests in forests. Conserv Biol 18:381–388

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Elts J, Leito A, Leivits M, Luigujõe L, Nellis R, Ots M, Tammekänd I, Väli Ü (2019) Status and numbers of Estonian birds, 2013–2017. Hirundo 32:1–39

    Google Scholar 

  • Fraixedas S, Lindén A, Meller K, Lindström Å, Keišs O, Kålås JA, Husby M, Leivits A, Leivits M, Lehikoinen A (2017) Substantial decline of Northern European peatland bird populations: Consequences of drainage. Biol Conserv 214:223–232.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gjerde I (1991) Cues in winter habitat selection by Capercaillie. II Experimental Evidence Ornis Scand 22:205–212

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haapalehto T, Kotiaho JS, Matilainen R, Tahvanainen T (2014) The effects of long-term drainage and subsequent restoration on water table level and pore water chemistry in boreal peatlands. J Hydrol 519:1493–1505

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Haapalehto T, Juutinen R, Kareksela S, Kuitunen M, Tahvanainen T, Vuori H, Kotiaho JS (2017) Recovery of plant communities after ecological restoration of forestry-drained peatlands. Ecol Evol 7:7848–7858

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hoover JP (2006) Water depth influences nest predation for a wetland-dependent bird in fragmented bottomland forests. Biol Conserv 127:37–45

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hu YB, Zhao QS, Lou YQ, Chen LJ, González MA, Sun YH (2017) Parental attendance of Chestnut Thrush reduces nest predation during the incubation period: compensation for low nest concealment? J Ornithol 158:1111–1117

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Huhta E, Helle P, Nivala V, Nikula A (2017) The effect of human-modified landscape structure on forest grouse broods in two landscape types. Ecosphere 8:e01950.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kämmerle JL, Coppes J, Ciuti S, Suchant R, Storch I (2017) Range loss of a threatened grouse species is related to the relative abundance of a mesopredator. Ecosphere 8:e01934

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Laine J, Vasander H, Sallantaus T (1995) Ecological effects of peatland drainage for forestry. Environ Rev 3:282–303

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lõhmus A, Remm L, Rannap R (2015) Just a ditch in forest? Reconsidering draining in the context of sustainable forest management. Bioscience 65:1066–1076

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lõhmus A, Leivits M, Pēterhofs E, Zizas R, Hofmanis H, Ojaste I, Kurlavičius P (2017) The Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) - an iconic focal species for knowledge-based integrative management and conservation of Baltic forests. Biodivers Conserv 26:1–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ludwig GX, Alatalo RV, Helle P, Nissinen K, Siitari H (2008) Large-scale drainage and breeding success in boreal forest grouse. J Appl Ecol 45:325–333

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moreno-Opo R, Afonso I, Jiménez J, Fernández-Olalla M, Canut J, García-Ferré D, Piqué J, García F, Roig J, Muñoz-Igualada J, González LM (2015) Is it necessary managing carnivores to reverse the decline of endangered prey species? Insights from a removal experiment of mesocarniores to benefit demographic parameters of the Pyrenean capercaillie. PLoS ONE 10:e0139837

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oja R, Pass E, Soe E, Ligi K, Anijalg P, Laurimaa L, Saarma U, Lõhmus A, Valdmann H (2018) Increased nest predation near protected capercaillie leks: a caveat against small reserves. Eur J Wildl Res 64:6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Paavilainen E, Päivänen J (1995) Peatland Forestry: Ecology and Principles. Springer, Berlin

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Pfadenhauer J, Grootjans A (1999) Wetland restoration in Central Europe: aims and methods. Appl Veg Sci 2:95–106

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosenvald R, Lõhmus A, Kraut A, Remm L (2011) Bird communities in hemi-boreal old-growth forests: The roles of food supply, stand structure, and site type. For Ecol Manag 262:1541–1550

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Similä M, Aapala K, Penttinen J (eds) (2014) Ecological restoration in drained peatlands—best practices from Finland. Metsähallitus, Vantaa

    Google Scholar 

  • Storch I (2000) Grouse status survey and conservation action plan 2000–2004. WPA/BirdLife/SSC Grouse Specialist Group. IUCN and The World Pheasant Association, Gland-Cambridge-Reading.

  • Summers RW, Green RE, Proctor R, Dugan D, Lambie D, Moncrieff R, Moss R, Baines D (2004) An experimental study of the effects of predation on the breeding productivity of capercaillie and black grouse. J Appl Ecol 41:513–525

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Swenson JE, Angelstam P (1993) Habitat separation by sympatric forest grouse in Fennoscandia in relation to boreal forest succession. Can J Zool 71:1303–1310

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Veeroja R (2018) Game management. Yearbook Forest 2017. Environmental Agency, Tallinn, pp 184–205

    Google Scholar 

  • Wegge P, Kastdalen L (2007) Pattern and causes of natural mortality of capercaille, Tetrao urogallus, chicks in a fragmented boreal forest. Ann Zool Fennici 44:141–151

    Google Scholar 

  • Wittenberger JF (1978) The evolution of mating systems in grouse. Condor 80:126–137

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We are grateful to the many volunteers who helped to collect data on grouse broods, and to the Estonian Fund for Nature for co-organizing the surveys; to Karli Ligi for assisting in the artificial nest experiment in 2014; and to Liina Remm for providing comments on an early draft of the manuscript. A subject editor and three reviewers provided a very constructive editorial process. The State Forest Management Centre carried out the habitat manipulations in 2015–2016, organized the predator removal (Kalev Männiste and Raul Orgla), and provided funding for M.P. E.P. was supported by the State Forest Management Centre in 2013 and by the Environmental Board in 2016 and 2018. A.L. has been supported by the Estonian Research Council project IUT 34-7.


The State Forest Management Centre carried out the habitat manipulations in 2015–2016, organized the predator removal (Kalev Männiste and Raul Orgla), and provided funding for M.P. E.P. was supported by the State Forest Management Centre in 2013 and by the Environmental Board in 2016 and 2018. A.L. has been supported by the Estonian Research Council project IUT 34-7.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eliisa Pass.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary file1 (PDF 7709 kb)


Appendix 1

Relationship between the annual proportion of capercaille and hazel grouse hens with broods

Breeding success of the capercaille (blue symbols) and hazel grouse (orange symbols) in the study landscapes. Each data point refers to the success (% hens with broods) in one landscape in one year; it is based on 7–19 capercaillie or 12–21 hazel grouse hens. Circles are the two SW landscapes (data from three years) and triangles the two NE landscapes (only 2016). The lines connect changes in the same SW landscapes (solid line, filled circle—the predator removal landscape; dashed line—the control landscape).

figure a

Appendix 2

Experimental design of habitat restoration treatments

figure b

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Pass, E., Pensa, M. & Lõhmus, A. Short-term effects of predator removal and habitat restoration on ground-nesting birds in drained forests. Wetlands Ecol Manage 30, 161–169 (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: