Interview: Dr Alex Lees | Provisioning: Killing with Kindness?


Charlie Moores in conversation with Dr Alex Lees, Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Recently Alex and Dr Jack Shutt published a paper that was widely reported in the mainstream media titled “Killing with kindness: Does widespread generalised provisioning of wildlife help or hinder biodiversity conservation efforts?”  That’s quite a striking headline, isn’t it? Providing for wildlife may be harming species of conservation concern.

The abstract of this paper is even more thought-provoking, “Generalised provisioning is enthusiastically promoted by many conservation organisations as a means to foster connection with nature and help wildlife. However, such a vast input of additional resources into the environment must have diverse, ecosystem-wide consequences….Using a case study of UK garden bird food and nestbox provisioning, we hypothesise how well-intentioned provisioning could be contributing to widespread ecological community change and homogenisation. This may consequently help drive declines in species of conservation concern by asymmetrically benefitting common and adaptable species, leaving their competitors exposed to enhanced direct competition, hyperpredation, mesopredator release and heightened disease transmission risks.

In very simple terms, then, the paper is asking whether providing wildlife with extra resources like food and nesting sites could be having a negative impact on some declining species – which, if you feed your garden birds like I do, is – well, food for thought…