A cost effective grassland management strategy to reduce the number of bird strikes at the Brisbane airport

Thomson, Belinda (2007) A cost effective grassland management strategy to reduce the number of bird strikes at the Brisbane airport. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


In an era of acute concern about airline safety, bird strikes are still one of the major hazards to aviation worldwide. The severity of the problem is such that it is mandatory in all developed countries to include bird management as part of airport safety management programs. In Australia, there are approximately 500 bird aircraft strikes per year (Bailey 2000). Brisbane airport has a relatively high occurrence of strikes, with an average of 77 recorded every year (2002-2004).

Given the severity of the problem, a variety of techniques have been employed by airports to reduce bird strikes. Scare devices, repellents, continuous patrols for bird hazing, use of raptors to clear airspace of birds and depredation are used by many airports. Even given the diversity of control methods available, it is accepted that habitat management is the most effective long term way to control birds in and around the airport space. Experimental studies have shown that habitat manipulation and active scaring measures (shooting, scaring etc), can reduce bird numbers to an acceptable level.

The current study investigated bird populations in six major vegetation habitat types identified within the operational and surrounding areas of Brisbane airport. In order to determine areas where greater bird control and management should be focused, bird abundance, distribution, and activity were recorded and habitats that pose the greatest bird strike risk to aircraft were identified. Secondly, species with high hazard potential were identified and ranked according to their hazard potential to aircraft.

This study also investigated the effectiveness of different vegetation management options to reduce bird species abundance within operational areas of Brisbane airport. Four different management options were compared. Each management option was assessed for grass structural complexity and potential food resources available to hazardous bird species.

Analysis of recorded data showed that of the habitats compared within the Brisbane airport boundaries, grasslands surrounding runways, taxiways and aprons possess the greatest richness and abundance of bird species that pose the greatest potential hazard to aircraft. Ibis and the Australian kestrel were identified as the bird species that pose the greatest risk to aircraft at Brisbane airport, and both were found in greatest numbers within the managed grasslands surrounding operational areas at the airport.

An improved reporting process that allows correct identification of all individual bird species involved in bird strikes will not only increase the accuracy of risk assessments, but will also allow implementation of more effective control strategies at Brisbane airport.

Compared with current grassland management practice, a vegetation management option of maintaining grass height at 30-50cm reduced total bird utilisation by 89% while utilisation of grassland by potentially hazardous birds was also reduced by 85%.

Maintaining grass height within the 30-50cm range also resulted in a 45% reduction in the number of manipulations required per year (11 to 6), when compared with current management practices, and a 64% reduction in annual maintenance cost per hectare. When extrapolated to the entire maintained grass area at Brisbane airport, this resulted in a saving of over $60 000 annually.

Optimisation of potential hazard reduction will rely on future studies that investigate the effect of particular vegetation species that could replace the existing mix of grasses used at Brisbane airport and an understanding of the relative importance of vegetation structure and food supply in determining utilisation by potentially hazardous bird species.

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ID Code: 16576
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Mather, Peter & Williamson, Ian
Keywords: ATSB, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, BAC, Brisbane Airport Corporation, BAM, United States Bird Avoidance Model, GIS, Geographic Information System, USGAO, United States Government Accountability Office
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Department: Faculty of Science
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Belinda Thomson
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:06
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2017 14:39

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