The effects of gamebird releasing on protected sites in the UK


The effects of gamebird releases on protected sites in the UK.

We invite you to take part in our research study into the effects of gamebird release on UK protected sites. Before deciding whether you are willing to participate, please read the following explanation of why the research is being conducted and what it would involve for you. The overall aim of this study is to better understand the complex mix of ecological effects associated with the releasing of pheasants and red-legged partridges (termed ‘gamebirds’ in this survey) on and around UK protected sites, recognising that when shooting estates are managed in an environmentally-friendly way, they can have a net positive benefit for wildlife.  We hope the findings of this study will inform future practice, policy and further research surrounding sustainable gamebird release.  

Recent reviews from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the RSPB and Natural England have documented both positive and negative ecological effects of gamebird releases in the UK. One area to emerge from these reviews as requiring further research is the effect of gamebird release on ecological features of protected sites (SACs, SPAs, SSSIs, NNRs, LNRs, Ramsar Sites). Current knowledge suggests we might expect a mixture of positive and negative ecological effects from gamebird releases on or adjacent to protected sites, but no systematic, practitioner-focused assessment has been conducted. In this survey, site managers of protected sites across the UK are asked to provide an assessment of the effects of gamebirds on the protected sites they manage. By conducting this survey we hope this information will provide an initial assessment of the pros and cons of gamebird release for the ecological interests of protected sites.
What information is being collected?
We aim to gather information from people who manage protected sites in predominantly lowland areas of the UK where gamebirds are either released within protected sites or on surrounding land.  Statutory sites are those that carry some form of legal protection and include:
  • Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
  • Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
  • National Nature Reserves (NNRs)
  • Local Nature Reserves (LNRs)
  • Ramsar Sites
The questionnaire is made up of five sections and will take approximately 25-30 minutes to complete. The sections cover:
Part 1: Information about you
Part 2: Information about your protected site
Part 3: Information about local gamebird releasing
Part 4: Your assessment of the ecological effects of habitat management associated with gamebird releases within or close to your protected site
Part 5: Your assessment of any effects of gamebird releasing on your site

You do not have to provide any personally identifiable information and your responses will be anonymous. We will ask for the general location of your protected site (county), so we can assess whether any effects vary regionally. So that we can compare responses across sectors we request general information about your employer (e.g. NGO, game estate, government body etc.). However, if you are worried that any particular information could identify you, against your wishes, then be assured that you do not have to submit a response and can choose to leave any question unanswered. Participants can withdraw from the study and have their responses deleted, by contacting Melissa Minter and quoting the unique ID code provided at the end of the survey by 1st August 2022. For more information, please see the RSPB privacy policy The survey conforms to all ethical approvals required by the RSPB Human Ethics Committee.

At the end of the survey there is the optional question to provide the name of your protected site. This would allow us to identify the species and habitats for which your site is designated, and will help us to identify the species and habitats for which gamebird releasing is having the most positive and negative effects. We will not use this information to personally identify site owners or managers, and we will not name any specific sites in any outputs from this questionnaire.

There will also be the option to provide contact details if you would like to be considered for a follow-up survey or interview. This information will be kept separate from the survey in a password-protected database on a secure network, only accessible to the project researchers, Melissa Minter and Lucy Mason. Data will be kept until the 31st December 2024 when it will be deleted. If you have any questions about the project or data collection, please email Melissa Minter