Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics

UvA receives grant from Dutch Air Force to expand bird migration research

1 April 2011

In the past years, the UvA’s Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) has played a leading role in using radar based monitoring of bird migration to learn more about migratory bird behaviour and thus increase military flight safety. A grant from the Royal Netherlands Air Force allows IBED to further expand this line of research internationally.

In the past years, the UvA’s Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) has played a leading role in using radar based monitoring of bird migration to learn more about migratory bird behaviour and thus increase military flight safety. A grant from the Royal Netherlands Air Force allows IBED to further expand this line of research internationally.

In 2003 the Computational Geo-Ecology Research group of IBED started with developing predictive bird avoidance models (BAM) for enhancing flight safety, based on data of bird migration measured with the air surveillance radars of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. In 2006, this was followed by a grant of the European Space Agency for an international team with the task to develop a Benelux System of Systems, integrating models and radars to monitor and predict migratory bird movements to improve military flight safety by reducing the risk of bird-aircraft collisions. In this context an algorithm was developed to assess bird migration activity from data of weather radars. The project was successfully concluded with a publicly available web-based Bird Avoidance Model that delivers predictions (72 hours in advance) of bird migration above parts of the Netherlands and Belgium. Just like the weather prediction might make one decide to stay indoors if a storm is foreseen, FlySafe-BAM may prompt the Air Force to keep its planes grounded if intense migration is predicted.

But migrating birds know no boundaries. Spatio-temporal patterns will be better understood and models will become more accurate if information from radars in other countries can be included in the model. Starting on the first of April, the Royal Netherlands Air Force has therefore provided a grant to IBED and KNMI for a follow-up project called FlySafe-2. While FlySafe-1 predominantly focused on military radars and on the Netherlands and Belgium, FlySafe-2 will work towards expanding the network by including more operational European weather radars to monitor and predict migratory bird movements over a much larger area.

In the mean time, IBED, KNMI and RNLAF have also started collaboration with several ecological and meteorological institutes from Finland, the UK, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland. This international and interdisciplinary network ENRAM (European Network for the Radar Surveillance of Animal Migration) aims to study insect and bird migration. FlySafe-2 and ENRAM will be involved in the “Migratory species” showcase for LifeWatch. LifeWatch is an EU funded research infrastructure that aims at constructing facilities, hardware, software and governance structures for biodiversity research, in which IBED plays a leading role.

Published by  IBED