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Valuing birdwatching in Victorian coastal ecosystems

Birdwatching in coastal Victoria by Dona Squire/Deakin University

Have you entered eBird checklists from places in coastal Victoria? If the answer is yes, then you are likely to receive an email from us inviting you to participate in a project involving researchers from Deakin University, eBird Australia, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC).  Some background information from the project team is outlined below.

We need your help with an exciting new research project in Southeast Australia! We are a team of researchers from Deakin University, eBird Australia and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Our project is part of TNC’s Mapping Ocean Wealth initiative, taking a fresh look at the recreational benefits humans derive from marine and coastal habitats.

A core motivation of our project is to estimate economic values of these vital coastal ecosystems, by using statistical models to better understand motivations and birdwatching visits in southeast Australia.

We will start by building on existing observation contributions to the eBird dataset. This will be supplemented by asking eBirders with checklists from coastal Victoria to complete a short online survey.

This survey will help us establish demographic information and your motivations relating to birdwatching. The survey is voluntary and a request to complete the survey will be sent out by eBird directly by email. The survey should only take about 15 minutes to finish. Upon completion of the survey, you will be able to enter our random draw for the chance to win the new book “The Australian Bird Guide” by Peter Menkhorst et al., a Garmin Lifestyle watch, a Coles-Myer gift card ($100) or a Lenovo IdeaPad 320 Laptop ($500).

Coastal habitats in southeast Australia play a vital role for shorebirds of the East Asian – Australasian flyway and for austral migrant species such as the endangered Orange-bellied Parrot. Yet often conservation and rehabilitation of areas vital to birdlife is made more difficult by the trade-offs between wildlife conservation and human land uses, such as urban development or farming.

Birdwatching is an important recreational and tourism benefit derived from coastal ecosystems. However, there is no estimate of the economic value of birdwatching in southeast Australia (we consider birdwatching to include observing and identifying birds, bird photography and other bird-focused activity and occupations). This makes it difficult to make a business case for conservation and hinders effective dialogue among stakeholders, but you can help us change this.

This project is an exciting application of the critical citizen science outcomes of eBird. Our aim is to co-produce knowledge that provides economic valuation of birdwatching to support coastal ecosystem conservation. The end goal is to inform and influence all sectors (e.g. engineers, policy makers, politicians, bankers, insurers and managers) to support smart investments and decision-making in the future that recognises the importance of our coastal ecosystems for both humans and nature.

For further information feel free to contact Dr. Biao Huang from Deakin University b.huang@deakin.edu.au, our collaborator from eBird Australia, Dr. Mat Gilfedder m.gilfedder@uq.edu.au, or The Nature Conservancy, Simon Reeves simon.reeves@tnc.org