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Wetting up Farmland for Biodiversity (Phase 2) - BD1326

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 are, to varying degrees, dependent on 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. This issue is likely to become increasingly important as climate change predictions suggest that such habitats may become increasingly scarce in summer. 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. Defra's Ecosystem Approach Action Plan calls for integration of such conservation objectives with other ecosystem service policy objectives such as mitigation of diffuse pollution of water.

The Project on which this extension builds assessed the efficacy of newly created bunded ditches (in both arable and pastoral fields) and ditch-fed paired ponds, for delivering the food and nesting resources required by a range of farmland birds. This project indicated that birds used these newly created features. Bunded ditches produced more potential invertebrate food (especially where not shaded by hedges) than control plots, and use of bunded ditches was correspondingly greater than unmanaged ditches. There was no evidence of yield impact on adjacent crops, and costs were limited to those associated with initial creation and periodic maintenance. This extension assesses these same criteria now that those created habitats have matured, *** provides new data for paired ponds, assesses ecological impacts of maintenance,*** and makes new assessment of the costs/benefits to farmers in the light of feedback from farmers at the demonstration site.

An evaluation will be made of the suitability of each feature for Entry Level and higher tier type agri-environment scheme options. Results will be disseminated in papers, conferences, popular press and, direct to landowners and managers, via in-house advisors, and the GWCT Allerton Project’s ongoing demonstration programme.
1. To develop an existing replicated experiment 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 existing bunded ditches, an option with potential for wide uptake. Ancillary work will develop the previous assessment of paired ponds.

(a) To measure success in delivering open water and bare earth, 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 use of the created features by foraging farmland birds.

2. To make an agronomic assessment of the likely costs and benefits associated with accumulated sediment in the studied features.

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

4. To disseminate results and practical advice to farmers and other stakeholders, as results become available.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : Wetting up Farmland for Biodiversity   (461k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2008

To: 2010

Cost: £280,460
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Royal Society for Protection of Birds, Pond Conservation, Game & Wildlife Conservancy Trust
Environmental Protection              
Habitat conservation              
Nature conservation