Insect migration specialist Don Reynolds of NRI attended the first Management Committee meeting of a new European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action, namely 'European Network for the Radar surveillance of Animal Movement (ENRAM)' in Brussels this month.

This 4-year programme will establish a European network of radar biologists, meteorologists and engineers, of which Don will be part, to coordinate the existing monitoring of bird, bat and insect movement patterns. The programme intends to extend the monitoring to continental scale, and improve weather radar products for meteorological applications.

The primary tool for these multidisciplinary applications will be the implementation of algorithms to extract information on biological targets from the Europe-wide network of operational weather radars coordinated by the OPERA programme (Operational Program for the Exchange of Weather Radar Information).

The aerial movement of billions of organisms through Europe brings great benefits in terms of ecosystem services, but it also poses risks through invasions of crop pests and the spread of disease, as well as collisions with aircraft, wind turbines and other structures. It is therefore imperative that the timing, intensity and spatial distribution of these movements are monitored.

The production, by ENRAM, of high-quality bird migration data from the entire European network of weather radars will represent the first time, anywhere, that continental-scale patterns of movement can be monitored for any group of animals.

Photo: Weather radar pictures from the Netherlands showing thousands of birds taking to flight, disturbed by New Year's fireworks (source: Shamoun-Baranes et al., 2012).