Date: 21 May 2011

Global Perspectives on Birds in Agricultural Landscapes

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Abstract

Earth is home for about 10,000 bird species. They inhabit all continents and interface with agroecosystems worldwide. Bird migrations across continents and nations make birds a truly global phenomenon of broad but complex conservation appeal. Global agricultural expansion during the past 200 years and intensification in the last 50 have been key drivers in global habitat loss and in declines of about 60% of the birds listed on the IUCN red list. Agricultural intensification is a continued concern as is expansion in tropical areas such as Latin America. Maintaining field-edge and set-aside habitats and using lower-intensity practices in production areas are important options for sustaining bird populations globally. Many key threats to birds in agroecosystems are global but specific impacts and management options may differ among geographical areas. Global climate change creates uncertainties for agriculture and birds, including impacts on bird migration and nesting, and concerns about synchrony between birds, habitats, and food resources. Climate change adds to other existing challenges of habitat loss and fragmentation, urbanization, migration barriers, and uncertain food resources. The push for biofuels has resulted in production intensification and habitat losses, especially removal of set-aside lands. Wildlife-friendly farming approaches can facilitate bird movement in fragmented agroecosystems and can provide important habitat for agricultural species and migratory birds. Wildlife-friendly and land sparing approaches are currently being debated toward the goal of sustaining biodiversity and food production. Global influences from social and political systems affect agroecosystems, people, and birds.

Ecotourism may hold potential to benefit local economies, people, and biodiversity if proper and persistent attention is given to ensure these outcomes. Producing food and fiber while, at the same time, sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services is a challenge for interdisciplinary research in collaboration with working farms and farmers. Research and decision-support tools are needed to facilitate development of policies and infrastructures to support sustainable agriculture and to facilitate conservation of biodiversity in agroecosystems. A conservation vision for the future is needed that embraces the realities of both natural resource limits and human desires for improved quality of life. The positive relationships between people, birds, and sustainable farms may be a key starting point to develop such a vision.