Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 615–631 | Cite as

Effects of livestock farming on birds of rural areas in Europe

  • Federica MusitelliEmail author
  • Andrea Romano
  • Anders Pape Møller
  • Roberto Ambrosini
Review Paper


In the last decades, profound modifications of agricultural practices occurred in Europe, including the introduction of modern livestock farming. These modifications negatively affected the fauna of rural areas, as indicated by the large demographic declines suffered by several populations of birds typical of these habitats. The impact of agricultural practices on bird populations has been widely investigated, while the effect of livestock farming has seldom been assessed. To fill this gap, we carried out a quantitative meta-analysis of the existing scientific literature and evaluated the size of the effects of livestock farming on birds of rural areas in Europe. We only found 26 papers on this topic, from which 72 effect sizes could be estimated. The barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) was the species on which most studies focused. Livestock farming positively influenced presence and distribution of barn swallows in breeding habitats, while it did not significantly affect reproduction of this species. Effects on other bird species typical of rural habitats were non-significant. The positive effect on the insectivorous barn swallow might be mediated by the enhanced insect abundance where livestock is reared. In addition, habitat features typical of rural settings where livestock is reared (e.g. cattle-sheds or large hayfields) positively affected barn swallows independently of actual presence of livestock at a setting. Presence of livestock at rural setting therefore seems beneficial to barn swallows, but not significantly to other bird species typical of rural habitats. The effect of livestock farming on birds of rural habitats has been under-investigated to date.


Agricultural intensification Barn swallow Farmlands Hierarchical linear models Livestock farming Meta-analysis 



We are grateful to Prof. Wim Van den Noortgate for advices on meta-analytic mixed models. Grzegorz Orłowski kindly provided additional information on sign of effect sizes not reported in original papers. Comments by Dan Chamberlain and an anonymous reviewer greatly improved the quality of the paper. This research was funded by grant 2014-ATE-0437 to RA.

Supplementary material

10531_2016_1087_MOESM1_ESM.docx (52 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 52 kb)
10531_2016_1087_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (109 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 110 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Ambiente e del Territorio e di Scienze della TerraUniversità degli Studi di Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di BioscienzeUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  3. 3.Laboratoire d’Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, CNRS UMR 8079Université Paris-SudOrsay CedexFrance

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