Dr David Douglas

Principal Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science

Background

At the RSPB, I lead a programme of research focusing on the birds, habitats and wider biodiversity of the UK uplands, finding solutions to the problems they face. This has included research into the effects of land uses such as commercial and native woodland creation, grazing, wind farms, grouse moor management and peatland restoration.

I also lead work to identify the causes of decline of species including curlew, black grouse and whinchat and design action to address these declines. I manage a Conservation Scientist, Dr Irena Tomankova, along with a variable number of research assistants each year.

I have a range of research experience and provide training in areas including data analysis, scientific publishing and fieldwork including bird survey techniques, radio tracking and ringing.

External Activities

  • 2020: Associate Editor of Ibis
  • 2020: ACCE Doctoral Training Programme (RSPB rep)
  • 2017: National Peatland Research and Monitoring Group Scotland 
  • 2016: UK and Ireland Curlew Action Group
  • 2016: BES Review College (grants) 
  • 2011: Black Grouse Scottish Steering Group

Partners and Collaboration

  • Prof Kirsty Park, Stirling University
  • Dr Karl Evans, Sheffield University
  • Dr Jan Axmacher, University College London
  • Prof Nicola Koper, University of Manitoba
  • Prof James Pearce-Higgins, BTO
  • Dr Davide Scridel, ISPRA
  • Dr Nick Littlewood, SRUC

Contact

David Douglas

Dr David Douglas

Principal Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science

Scotland Headquarters, 2 Lochside View, Edinburgh Park, Edinburgh, EH12 9DH

david.douglas@rspb.org.uk

@davidjtdouglas

Research Gate

Specialisms

Agriculture Climate change Identifying problems UK species Upland

Selected Publications

Benefits and costs of native reforestation for breeding songbirds in temperate uplands

Global tree planting initiatives may benefit biodiversity depending on woodland type, but ecological effects must be understood when woodland replaces open habitats supporting characteristic wildlife. In the UK's temperate uplands, large-scale reforestation is replacing long-established open ‘moorland’ (heath, bog and grassland) supporting breeding bird communities of conservation importance. We quantified breeding bird species richness and abundance in 8–24 year-old native woodland plantations in Scotland and adjacent moorland and used bird densities to predict potential future abundance changes in woodland and moorland avian indicator species from recent national-level woodland creation policies. Bird species richness at point counts increased with increasing woodland cover, height and age and declined with increasing elevation. Differing abundances of bird species of conservation concern between woodland and moorland were related to their associations with vegetation measures, especially woodland cover and tree species composition. The creation of 54.9 km2 of native woodland in Scotland across 2017 and 2018 predicts reduced Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis (moorland indicator) abundance of 6214 individuals or 0.13% of current UK population, and increased Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus (indicator of young woodland) abundance of 6040 individuals or 0.13% of current UK population. Native woodland plantations comprised c34% of new woodland creation and the projections should be extended to other woodland types in particular non-native commercial conifer forestry. Native reforestation of open ground offers net gains in bird species richness but could disbenefit open-ground birds including those of conservation concern. Where retention of open-ground species is desired, landscape-scale reforestation should consider both woodland and open-ground wildlife.

Date
01 April 2020
RSPB Authors
Dr David Douglas
Authors
Douglas, David JT Groom, Jonathan D Scridel, Davide
Published in
Biological Conservation
View publication Details

Patterns of satellite tagged hen harrier disappearances suggest widespread illegal killing on British grouse moors

Identifying patterns of wildlife crime is a major conservation challenge. Here, we test whether deaths or disappearances of a protected species, the hen harrier, are associated with grouse moors, which are areas managed for the production of red grouse for recreational shooting. Using data from 58 satellite tracked hen harriers, we show high rates of unexpected tag failure and low first year survival compared to other harrier populations. The likelihood of harriers dying or disappearing increased as their use of grouse moors increased. Similarly, at the landscape scale, satellite fixes from the last week of life were distributed disproportionately on grouse moors in comparison to the overall use of such areas. This pattern was also apparent in protected areas in northern England. We conclude that hen harriers in Britain suffer elevated levels of mortality on grouse moors, which is most likely the result of illegal killing.

Date
19 March 2019
RSPB Authors
Dr David Douglas
Authors
Murgatroyd, M. Redpath, S. M. Murphy, S. G. Douglas, D. J. T. Saunders, R. Amar, A.
Published in
Nature Communications
View publication Details

Negative impact of wind energy development on a breeding shorebird assessed with a BACI study design

Previous studies have shown negative associations between wind energy development and breeding birds, including species of conservation concern. However, the magnitude and causes of...

Date
01 July 2016
RSPB Authors
Dr David Douglas
Authors
Sansom, A., Pearce-Higgins, J.W. & Douglas, D.
Published in
Ibis 158: 541-555
View publication Details

Vegetation burning for game management in the UK uplands is increasing and overlaps spatially with soil carbon and protected areas

Burning for habitat management is globally widespread. Burning over carbon-rich soils is a global environmental concern due to the potential contribution to climate change. In the UK upland heath and blanket bog, so-called 'moorland', often overlies carbon-rich soils, and has internationally important...

Date
01 November 2015
RSPB Authors
Dr David Douglas, Dr Graeme Buchanan, Prof Jeremy Wilson
Authors
Douglas, D.J.T., Buchanan, G.M., Thompson, P., Amar, A., Fielding, D.A., Redpath, S.M. & Wilson, J.D.
Published in
Biological Conservation 191: 243-250
View publication Details

Upland land use predicts population decline in a globally near-threatened wader

Changes in large-scale land use may fragment and degrade habitats, affecting animal species adapted to these habitats.

Date
16 October 2013
RSPB Authors
Dr David Douglas, Paul Bellamy, Prof Jeremy Wilson
Authors
Douglas, D.J.T., Bellamy, P.E., Stephen, L.S., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Wilson, J.D. & Grant, M.C.
Published in
Journal of Applied Ecology
View publication Details