Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Using Arable Stewardship survey data to construct bird-habitat association models - BD1622

For a variety of species on the farmland bird index, a key ‘research gap’ identified by the recent project BD1618 ‘Predicting the response of farmland bird populations to agricultural change’, is the construction of models which quantify bird distribution in relation to particular habitat features. Such ‘bird-habitat’ models allow predictions to be made of the effects on bird numbers of specific land management.

The Pilot Arable Stewardship Scheme (AS) was established by MAFF in 1998 to test the effectiveness of a range of arable management options in maintaining and enhancing biodiversity. A monitoring scheme, using Breeding Bird Survey, detected some farm-scale responses of birds to AS. RSPB are currently contracted to conduct a repeat monitoring project to determine whether AS enhances bird populations at the farm-scale. Common Birds Census (CBC) methodology allows finer-scale resolution of the habitat associations of breeding birds. Here, we propose to use CBC methods on AS farms to build habitat association models for a range of species in the farmland bird index, for which such predictive models do not yet exist. This project will benefit from data collected during the AS monitoring project and dissemination of information via the steering group for that project. This project will add substantially to the monitoring project, in providing information about the scale at which bird responses to particular AS options can be detected. The research can provide an advance towards quantifying the nature and scale at which resource provision is required to achieve recovery of key farmland bird species. The results will also provide a rigorous scientific basis for recommendations relating to the further development and implementation of arable agri-environment measures.
(1) To carry out an intensive Common Birds Census of breeding birds on a subset of arable stewardship farms in summer 2003, to determine territory associations and hence construct bird-habitat models. This work has two goals; (i) construction of bird-habitat models for these species for which data do not currently exist (an important goal for meeting the PSA target), (ii) elucidation of the options responsible for any effect of arable stewardship detected at the farm-scale.
(2) To determine whether options have a local effect which is undetectable at the farm-scale (which would be suggestive that options need greater coverage in order to influence the farmland bird indicator, data for which is collected at farm-scales).
(3) To make practical recommendations relating to the efficacy of different arable stewardship prescriptions and other measures for the conservation of different farmland bird species.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Using Arable Stewardship survey data to construct bird-habitat association models.   (345k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2004

Cost: £19,731
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Royal Society for Protection of Birds
Environmental Protection              
Habitat conservation              
Nature conservation              
Fields of Study
Environmental Stewardship