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Wetting up farmland for birds and other biodiversity - BD1323

Description
The decline in recent decades of U.K. farmland birds is well documented and has led to a Public Service Agreement (PSA) to reverse these trends. For many species, we now have relatively good knowledge of how to provide the nesting and food resources needed. However, there are still some knowledge gaps. In particular, there is increasing evidence that many species make use of wet habitats on farmland, but we do not yet know the best way to provide the resources associated with wet habitats to which the birds are responding. Better knowledge of how to provide such habitats could contribute to achievement of both the overall PSA target, individual Species Action Plan (SAP) targets and enhancement of other farmland biodiversity (insects and vegetation) on which birds depend for food and nesting sites.

This proposal is to review the use of wet farmland habitats by farmland birds, to assess how these habitats provide resources for birds, especially PSA target species, and to assess the efficacy of managed wet ditches (in both arable and pastoral fields), waterlogged areas, shallow surface scrapes and paired ponds, for delivering the food and nesting resources required by a range of farmland birds.

Objective
1. To review the delivery of resources for farmland birds, especially PSA targets species, by different wet habitat features; including identification of the most appropriate forms and configurations of wet areas for introduction into arable and intensive grassland areas.

2. To use replicated experiments to measure the delivery of food resources and bird use of small-scale wetland features on the edges of arable and pastoral fields. The experimental work will focus on wetting-up existing ditches, an option with the potential for wide uptake. Ancillary work will be carried out on paired ponds and surface scrapes newly created on buffer strips, and waterlogged areas on buffer strips/grassland.

(a) To measure success in delivering open water, bare earth, sward heterogeneity and a diversity of terrestrial vegetation, as a measure of access to food resources for farmland birds.
(b) To measure success in delivering obligate wetland invertebrates, especially those important as a food resource for farmland birds.
(c)To measure success in delivery terrestrial invertebrates, especially those important as a food resources for farmland birds.
(d) To measure use of wet areas in arable land and intensive grassland by foraging farmland birds.

3. To make an agronomic assessment of the likely costs of a range of options for creating wet habitats in arable and pastoral farmland.

4. To synthesize results and make recommendations for provision of wet areas in arable land and intensive grassland within agri-environment schemes.

5. To disseminate results and practical advice to farmers and other stakeholders, as results become available.

Project Documents
• Final Report : Wetting up farmland for birds and other biodiversity   (747k)
• Final Report - Annex : Wetting up farmland for birds and other biodiversity   (1309k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2004

To: 2007

Cost: £645,001
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Royal Society for Protection of Birds, Pond Conservation, Allerton Research and Educational Trust, University - Reading
Keywords
Biodiversity              
Environmental Protection              
Habitat conservation              
Nature conservation              
Fields of Study
Environmental Stewardship