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Use of cereal fields by birds - a review in relation to field margin management - BD1101

Field margin management has been widely advocated as an approach to enhance wildlife biodiversity on farmland. This study will aim to provide an appraisal of the likely responses of birds to field margin management practices. It will also compare the benefits likely to be derived from field margin management with those from other options for integrating biodiversity conservation into cereal agriculture. The study will be composed of 6 specific objectives outlined as follows, together with ways in which they might be achieved: 1. Determination of the extent to which different farmland bird species forage in field margins as opposed to field centres. The BTO holds several unique independent data sets which will be valuable for assessing field margin usage by farmland bird species; analyses will seek to establish whether these data sets, collected at different times and locations, show consistent patterns of field usage with respect to margins. 2 major data sets will be studied: a 2 year comparative study on use of unsprayed field margins and conventionally treated margins at a farm in Hampshire, which will allow an analysis of the frequency with which different species feed in crops at different distances from the boundary; and data from a MAFF-funded study of birds in set-aside and crops during the breeding season at 6 different sites; 2. A review of factors (such as food abundance, vegetation structure and predation risk) likely to determine the suitability of field margins for each species. This will involve an extensive literature search in general ornithological publications, scientific journals and other published and unpublished reports; 3. Assessment of the probable effects of different field margin management practices, including conservation headlands, wildlife strips, sterile strips, game crops and grass strips, on food resources available to farmland birds. Consultations with experts from IACR will be held on the effects of different field margin management practices on weeds, their seeds and invertebrates which are identified as being important bird food items. Relevant literature on birds and field margin management practices will be included in the review; 4. Assessment of the value of field margin treatments for each bird species relative to other approaches, such as whole field set-aside, organic farming and integrated crop management, for integrating conservation into cereal farming. Information gained from the first 3 specific objectives will be integrated for this aspect of the project; 5. Determination of bird species for which future research on field margin management should be focused and provision of recommendations for experimental requirements and types of treatment that should be examined; and 6. Provision of recommendations concerning optimum field margin management practices beneficial to declining farmland bird species.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 1997

To: 1998

Cost: £36,114
Contractor / Funded Organisations
British Trust For Ornithology
Fields of Study
Environmental Stewardship