AvianBuffer: An interactive tool for characterising and managing wildlife fear responses

Abstract

The characterisation and management of deleterious processes affecting wildlife are ideally based on sound scientific information. However, relevant information is often absent, or difficult to access or contextualise for specific management purposes. We describe ‘AvianBuffer’, an interactive online tool enabling the estimation of distances at which Australian birds respond fearfully to humans. Users can input species assemblages and determine a ‘separation distance’ above which the assemblage is predicted to not flee humans. They can also nominate the diversity they wish to minimise disturbance to, or a specific separation distance to obtain an estimate of the diversity that will remain undisturbed. The dataset is based upon flight-initiation distances (FIDs) from 251 Australian bird species (n = 9190 FIDs) and a range of human-associated stimuli. The tool will be of interest to a wide audience including conservation managers, pest managers, policy makers, land-use planners, education and public outreach officers, animal welfare proponents and wildlife ecologists. We discuss possible applications of the data, including the construction of buffers, development of codes of conduct, environmental impact assessments and public outreach. This tool will help balance the growing need for biodiversity conservation in areas where humans can experience nature. The online resource will be expanded in future iterations to include an international database of FIDs of both avian and non-avian species.

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Acknowledgments

FIDs need to be collected under animal ethics and other permissions in Australia, and all our FID data were collected with appropriate permissions. Disclaimers on the use of the tool are provided therein. While the tool is provided free to any practitioner managing wildlife, commercial users are requested to contact the authors. We thank the many field volunteers who have collected data that have contributed to this online tool. The tool was funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and Victoria University.

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Correspondence to Michael A. Weston.

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Guay, PJ., van Dongen, W.F.D., Robinson, R.W. et al. AvianBuffer: An interactive tool for characterising and managing wildlife fear responses. Ambio 45, 841–851 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-016-0779-4

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Keywords

  • Buffers
  • Co-existence
  • Flight-initiation distance
  • Human-wildlife conflict
  • Wildlife management