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Determining the Baseline Status of Farmland Bird Populations to Allow Assessment of the Effectiveness of the Environmental Stewardship Scheme - MA01022

Agri-environment schemes are expected to play a key role in meeting Defra’s PSA target to reverse the long term decline of the farmland bird index. Particularly important amongst these will be the new Entry Level Scheme (ELS). Given the importance of ELS options to Defra’s PSA target and the level of spending dedicated to the scheme it will be important to (i) demonstrate that the entry level approach is securing desired effects and (ii) identify key factors determining the level/extent of these effects (e.g. the most effective options, combinations of options or landscape contexts).

This project is designed to address both these issues within a rigorous BACI (Before-After-Control-Impact) monitoring framework, building on the BTO/RSPB/JNCC Breeding Bird Survey. The work will involve the collection of baseline data in 2005 (i.e. before ELS launch) with subsequent resurveys planned in 2008 and 2011. These data will be used to test for an effect of ELS on the abundance of a number of relatively widespread farmland birds and to provide some data for preliminary analyses relating to the identification of the most effective options, combinations of options or landscape contexts.

The BTO/RSPB/JNCC Breeding Bird Survey, based on data from random 1 km squares across Britain, can provide a long term monitoring mechanism for the impact of ELS on bird populations. However, these data are unlikely to provide adequate power to detect changes in target bird species in the shorter term or between sites with land managed under ELS versus sites without any land managed under ELS. Modelling of BBS data by BTO showed that recording an additional 500 BBS 1 km squares in two contrasting landscape types (e.g. arable and pastoral) would provide adequate power to detect short-term population changes in the order of 5% over this time period, and differences of 10% between ELS and non-ELS squares for two key species – Skylark and Yellowhammer. This sample size is likely to be sufficient to detect changes in populations of at least one of three additional species, Lapwing, Starling and Linnet. Hence, this project involves recording these additional 1000 BBS squares and associated analysis and reporting.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : MA01022 Assessment of impacts of ELS on Bird Poulations from Baseline Year 2005   (214k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2004

To: 2006

Cost: £277,761
Contractor / Funded Organisations
British Trust For Ornithology
Environmental monitoring              
Environmental Protection              
Fields of Study
Environmental Protection - Agriculture