Effects of farming practices on nesting success of steppe birds in dry cereal farmland

  • Carlos Ponce
  • Iván Salgado
  • Carolina Bravo
  • Natalia Gutiérrez
  • Juan Carlos Alonso
Original Article

Abstract

Increase in nest predation has been identified as a major cause of decline of farmland birds. However, the interactions between agricultural intensification and predation are still poorly understood, particularly after the introduction of agri-environmental schemes (AES). We used an artificial nest predation experiment and camera trapping to examine how AES measures (vetch, organic cereal, and long-term fallows) can affect nest predation in a dry cereal farmland area in central Spain. We found that 66% of nests were predated, and 6% were run over by tractors during the traditional spring works to eliminate weeds in plowed fields. Nests surrounded by tall vegetation suffered lower predation rates, cereal crops being the safest substrate. In contrast, the highest predation rate was found in plowed fields, where nests were more exposed and vulnerable. Nest predation was higher near field edges, where mammals concentrate their predation effort, as shown by camera trapping. Predation was also high in long-term fallows and organic cereal crops, where prey are more abundant than in other field types, thus attracting predators. This was confirmed by the higher mammal predation events recorded by wildlife cameras in fallow fields compared to other substrates. To minimize this predation increase, we recommend that AES-promoted fields should be dispersed, in order to prevent an accumulation of high-quality patches which might attract predators. Finally, it is crucial to establish some restrictions on tractor works in plowed fields in spring to decrease the remarkably high rate of nest destruction (one of every four nests in this substrate).

Keywords

Agri-environment schemes Agricultural intensification Artificial nest experiment Farmland bird Habitat management Nest predation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Iris Calleja for her help during field work and all farmers in the study area for their collaboration. Luis M. Bautista and Rafael Barrientos made valuable suggestions to improve the manuscript. Compensatory payments to farmers were financed through an AES funded by the construction of the highway Madrid-Guadalajara and managed through a contract CSIC-HENARSA awarded to JCA. CP and CB were supported by the contract CSIC-HENARSA. IS was supported by a Junta de Ampliación de Estudios (JAE) predoctoral fellowship from the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC). Additional funding was provided by the General Directorate for Scientific Research of the Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation (projects CGL2005-04893 and CGL2008-02567).

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlos Ponce
    • 1
  • Iván Salgado
    • 1
  • Carolina Bravo
    • 1
  • Natalia Gutiérrez
    • 1
  • Juan Carlos Alonso
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary EcologyMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasMadridSpain

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