Bird populations and the energy transition

Project title: Analysis of the causes of population changes of indicator bird species and the energy transition


  • bird species as indicators of biodiversity
  • evaluation of population development
  • assessment of endangerment potentials due to wind energy


National Association of German Avifaunists e.V.
Dachverband Deutscher Avifaunisten e.V.
An den Speichern 6
D-48157 Münster
Sven Trautmann
Tel: +49 251 21014014


FKZ 3514 82 1000
Departmental research plan 2014
Term: 2014–2017

The project investigates changes in the breeding populations of bird species, especially those which are considered as conservation indicators of species diversity and landscape quality. In combination with other environmental parameters, the project aims to analyse the causes and factors that control the development of these populations.

The project will provide information for the ecological and political support and communication of national indicators for biodiversity (National Biodiversity Strategy, National Sustainability Strategy). These data contribute to the analysis of the causes of threats to bird species and lay the foundation for planning future protection measures. In order to comply with the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the reporting duties of the EU Birds Directive, the causes of these threats need to be studied as carefully as possible. The findings from this analysis form a knowledge and argument base for nature conservation policy decisions, thus supporting the implementation of No. 2.3 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 which aims to increase knowledge of native biodiversity. The project also supports the implementation of Section 6 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BnatSchG). The results present the current status and the changes in nature and landscape, including their causes and consequences.


The project is divided into two sections. In the first step the bird monitoring data is selected and processed. Data series are also compiled on possible influencing factors for the population changes. Based on this examination, suitable statistical methods for the evaluations in the second part are tested and selected.

First the population development (trends) of the indicator bird species are examined for regional or habitat differences. Both long-, medium- and short-term features and differences between specific habitats are recorded. Next the causes of the observed development are researched. The collated data series on a range of possible influencing factors are then analysed for their explanatory power. The driving abiotic and biotic factors for population changes need to be identified and the relative strength of the individual factors described. Influencing factors that can be ascribed to the energy transition are included as predictor variables in the modelling. Habitat overlap with the risk factor of (onshore) wind power is looked at separately for sensitive species. Existing and impending threat potentials will be demonstrated and their spatial extent documented.

Based on the results of the two stages, conservation recommendations will be derived for different forms of land use and management.


In addition to monitoring population changes, data from the Common Bird Monitoring Scheme are suitable for a detailed analysis of the factors controlling population changes. Data on the development of potentially relevant environmental parameters can be used in statistical modelling (mixed model) to explain the variation in population trends of bird species or groups of species that function as response variables. This requires the existence of meaningful data to describe environmental parameters considered as relevant over a suitable period and spatial resolution. As bird populations are affected by higher-level factors such as weather and particular species characteristics in addition to habitat influencing factors that vary regionally, a comprehensive analysis of the drivers of population change requires a large amount of data that directly reflect influencing factors or are strongly correlated with them.

As part of the research and development project, a check was made of the existence of data series for modelling the influencing factors for population changes. The project identified 98 possible influencing factors for controlling population dynamics for a selection of indicator bird species, and looked at the availability of suitable data sets.

While the availability of data varied considerably for different habitats, there were clear gaps in terms of highly relevant influencing factors such as e.g. predation or land consolidation. Although the data available enables a comprehensive modelling of the causes of population changes for individual habitats, at this point a complete analysis taking account of all the key influencing factors is not possible. One problem is that many environmental parameters are not recorded annually (particularly parameters on forest development) or not using consistent methodology (e.g. grassland categories). Data on environmental parameters are often only available in a highly aggregated form and are not suitable to represent specific influencing factors that often vary greatly in intensity on a regional basis. For example, data on pesticide use are only available as national sales figures. In addition, there are often comprehensive raw data for various parameters (e.g. water table drawdown) that are not processed in terms of time and location and so cannot be used for analyses in other specialisms.

At the same time it was clear that various stakeholders had started to collect and regularly update data series on important influencing factors. Even though some data series are not suitable for analysing population changes over longer periods due to comparatively short collection times, these data series should be useful in the future. In addition, the BfN is preparing to set up a national ecosystem monitoring project on the Common Bird Monitoring trial areas. This project will in future provide valuable targeted information on the causal analysis.

Further information

Work packages

Work packages

  1. Elaborating precise questions and research hypotheses
  2. Agreeing the range of species to be included
  3. Collecting and selecting the data sets necessary for the analyses of bird populations
  4. Selecting, preparing and compiling data sets on possible influencing variables
  5. Processing the data for the following EDP-assisted evaluation steps and evaluation routines
  6. Selecting and testing statistical methods, tests
  7. Reviewing changes in trends
  8. Statistical and ecological analyses of long-, medium- and short-term trends, determining tipping points
  9. Regional differences in population trends for large landscapes, natural regions and federal states
  10. Testing the reliability of the calculated trends:
  11. Determining differences in population development in different habitats and linking with data on habitat or land use changes
  12. Sample analysis of the influence of abiotic (e.g. land use) and material (e.g. nitrogen input) factors on the population changes in bird species;
  13. Linking the guild allocation with the causal analysis for population changes
  14. Analysing the influence of protected areas and modelling the determination of the effects of management of protected sites on population changes
  15. Including areas with intensive observations in the causal analysis
  16. Publishing the most important results in scientific journals

Project partners

Project partners

Project management

Dachverband Deutscher Avifaunisten e.V.
An den Speichern 6, 48157 Münster
Sven Trautmann
Tel.: +49 251 21014014

Malte Busch
Tel.: +49 (0251 / 21014015

Funding authority

Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)
FG II 1.3 Monitoring
Konstantinstr. 110
53179 Bonn
Rainer Dröschmeister
Phone: +49 228 84 91 1461

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