Intensification of agricultural practices over the last 50 years has resulted in the impoverishment of the wildlife associated with lowland farmland across much of Western Europe. This is perhaps best documented in birds. In England, populations of 15 species associated with lowland farmland have fallen by between 50% and 100%. Several species have become rare and localised. Others, formerly abundant and ubiquitous, remain relatively common and widespread, but nonetheless in need of conservation action. Agri-environment schemes are widely held as a solution to this generic problem, but the track record of many prototype schemes in delivering biodiversity is far from good. The efficacy of any scheme in recovering the population of a given species will depend upon deployment of effective prescriptive management at the right time and in the right place. We argue that a two-tiered approach is required in the design of any scheme, to cope with the requirements of both localised and widespread species. We illustrate this by using case studies of two ground-nesting bird species, Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus and Skylark Alauda arvensis, whose populations have declined for similar reasons, but for which the prescriptive management solutions and the means of their deployment differ radically.
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We would like to thank Tony Morris and Nick Adams for providing data. RSPB and English Nature (now Natural England) have been long-term partners and co-funders of the Stone-curlew recovery project. Much of the Skylark data has been collected as part of the Sustainable Arable LINK project LK0926—Sustainable Arable Farming For an Improved Environment (SAFFIE). We thank Tony Morris and Richard Bradbury for their constructive comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.
Communicated by F. Bairlein.
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Evans, A.D., Green, R.E. An example of a two-tiered agri-environment scheme designed to deliver effectively the ecological requirements of both localised and widespread bird species in England. J Ornithol 148, 279–286 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-007-0216-3
- Ground-nesting birds
- Lowland farmland