Between 2001 and 2002, BTO, RSPB, GCT and Oxford University conducted a short research project (BD1618) to establish the state of current knowledge on farmland bird index (FBI) species, the main gaps and to provide focus on what measures would be required to meet the farmland bird PSA target. That project was successful in identifying the main resource requirements of the FBI bird species, for a very few species the amounts of these resources needed for population recovery, and the ability of current agri-environment scheme packages to deliver these resources (Vickery et al. 2004). Uncertainties remained over the resources needed by some species (e.g. yellow wagtail), but primarily over the amount of resource needed to effect population recovery. Nevertheless, project BD1618 proved helpful in influencing the decision to deploy the ELS pilot. Now that Environmental Stewardship has been rolled out nationally in England, it is timely to again review what we know, to determine whether we can identify any potential shortcomings in the ability of ES (particularly ELS) to help deliver the PSA target, especially given the impending disappearance of set-aside. In particular, this work is needed to inform a review of ES that will begin in May 2007.The work required has been identified through discussions with NE and Defra and will fall into 7 distinct parts
Objective 1 To update the evidence base and identify remaining knowledge gaps of resource requirements and causes of decline of farmland birds.
We will review and synthesise new information on resource requirements of PSA species as well as studies focussed on habitat management to deliver these resources. For two species, yellowhammer and skylark, we will also consider the extent to which new information can be used to improve mathematical models that link land management changes to population changes via changes in demographic rates.
Objective 2 To review knowledge on practical measures to improve quality of current options.
We will review and synthesise new information relating to ways in which the cost-effectiveness of exisiting options, e.g. margins and stubbles, may be improved through refining management techniques.
Objective 3. To review knowledge on the optimal ways to deploy options in the landscape.
We will review and synthesise knowledge (theoretical and practical) on the impact of option combination, configuration (shape and size) and location, on potential delivery of resources for farmland birds
Objective 4 To review knowledge for past value of set-aside for farmland birds and potential impact of its loss.
We will review and synthesise literature on the value of set-aside for birds and undertake analyses relating regional population trends in key PSA species to regional availability of set-aside.
Objective 5 To assess the proportion of landscape required under specific management to produce a population increase and compare this with availability under current uptake of ELS options.
This objective will be addressed by, firstly, quantifying the uptake of options and option combinations for each declining PSA species, HLS target species and farmland BAP species. This wil be done by assessing the percentage of agreements providing winter food, summer food and nest sites (the 'big 3') as well as those providing just 1 or 2 of these 3 resources. Secondly, by undertaking preliminary analyses, based on demographic models in BD1618, to assess for a subset of species for which suitable data exist, whether we can estimate the proportion of the population that needs to be 'serviced' by prescriptive management to result in an overall population increase. Thirdly, we will summarise knowledge from empirical studies of the quantity of option required to enhance bird populations.
Objective 6 To predict likely future trends in the farmland bird index
Reading University (CAER) and BTO have developed a risk-based model to predict impacts of some future agricultural change on bird populations (Science 2006, 315 381-383). Using future scenarios from the Defra funded project (OBS 02), we will run 2-3 'expected change scenarios' relatoing to national level chnage through the impact model.
Objective 7 To make recommendations for future research and policy
We will use the information derived from objectives 1-6 to identify and highlight major research gaps and make recommendations on the way in which option design and uptake might be modified to enhance the likelihood of meeting the PSA target. We will endeavour to identify recommendations that deliver not only for biodiversity but also for wider ecosystem services and within the context of climate change.
To update the evidence base and identify remaining knowledge gaps of resource requirements and causes of decline of farmland birds.