Changes in agricultural land-use may have been responsible for contractions in range that have occurred in a number of bird species over the past three decades. This was considered by examining spatial change in the ranges of 21 farmland bird species at the scale of 10 km squares in relation to spatial change in agricultural land-use variables between the late 1960s and the late 1980s in lowland England and Wales. Seven species showed range declines (local extinction) exceeding 5% over this period and analyses focused on these: Grey Partridge Perdix perdix , Lapwing Vanellus vanellus , Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur , Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava , Tree Sparrow Passer montanus , Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra and Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus . Individual species loss and change in species richness tended to be related to variables with strong regional trends, reflecting greater losses in western 10 km squares characterized by pastoral agriculture. It is unlikely that many of the variables selected in the regression models are, in themselves, the causal factors behind changes in the ranges of species and changes in species richness. Lapwing was an exception, agricultural variables associated with grassland being consistently selected. Principal Components Analysis (PCA) was applied to the agricultural variables. This identified a major gradient of change in cropping patterns, involving large increases in areas of wheat Triticum spp. and oilseed rape Brassica napus at the expense of barley Hordeum spp., bare fallow and grass. Local extinctions and change in species richness were consistently related to the first PCA axis, showing that local extinctions have occurred most in those squares where there had been relatively little change in crop types. The greater rate of local extinctions in pastoral regions may be associated with a number of factors, including changes in the management of grass and livestock, edge of range effects (where species in less favoured habitats are more likely to become locally extinct) and source-sink effects. These results highlight the need for further research into the effects of agricultural management on birds in pastoral systems.
Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment – Elsevier
Published: Mar 1, 2000
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