Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Search List

Lapwings on agri-environment scheme fallow plots: Research to improve lapwing breeding success - BD5211

The lapwing is commonly regarded as a barometer of the health of farmland ecosystems. In common with other farmland birds, it has declined in numbers by 50% since 1983, leading to it being ‘red-listed’ species of conservation concern and it is on the Section 41 ‘England Biodiversity List’ of the NERC Act (2006). On arable/mixed farming landscapes, a key measure for reversing this decline is to encourage farmers to establish so-called fallow plots within arable fields, as funded under agri-environment schemes (for example the Entry Level and Higher Level Stewardship (ELS and HLS) schemes within Environmental Stewardship). These plots are designed to provide both nesting and foraging opportunities for lapwings within conventional crops. There is considerable investment in fallow plots (c.£6 million pa in England, based on 17,000 ha of plots at £360/ha), but it is unclear whether lapwing breeding success is sufficient to support stable or increasing populations at a large geographical scale.

An estimated 40% of fallow plots within agri-environment schemes are occupied by breeding lapwings, but information on breeding success on these plots is poor. However, RSPB data from an annual sample of c.260 plots in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Berkshire indicate a 40% decline in numbers of lapwing pairs between 2006 and 2010, and anecdotal reports from farmland advisors suggest that lapwing productivity on fallow plots may be low. Work by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust to document breeding success in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset during 2010-2011, suggests variable, but adequate, levels of nest survival, but very poor brood survival on a sample of 79 plots. The overall level of breeding success was too low to maintain stable lapwing populations. These limited data suggest that there is scope for increasing the use of plots by lapwings and improving breeding success. There is an urgent need for a large-scale, multi-region assessment of breeding success on agri-environment scheme fallow plots in order to better understand the requirements of lapwing broods on arable land and whether chick survival is a limiting factor in lapwing population recovery.

The aim of this project is to expand upon work already undertaken by GWCT and RSPB to assess whether breeding success on fallow plots is higher than on spring crops without agri-environment measures. It will also determine whether breeding success and, in particular, chick survival is sufficient to maintain stable or increasing lapwing populations at a landscape scale. If this is not the case, the intention is to establish which management and landscape factors have most influence on productivity, to facilitate future targeting and ensure that future management of plots maximizes breeding success.
To assess the efficacy of AES fallow plots as a tool for lapwing recovery in lowland arable/mixed farming landscapes. This will be done in the same mixed farming region (Wessex) by GWCT for two years and in one or two arable regions (East Anglia in year 1 and East Anglia or the Tees Lowlands in year 2) by RSPB. Specific objectives are:
(1) Assessment of overall breeding success on fallow plots and comparison with arable fields without AES measures.
(2) Estimation of lapwing nest survival on a minimum of 40 fallow plots per annum and comparison with nest survival on spring cereal fields.
(3) Analysis of distances moved and habitat use relative to availability by 40 broods hatching on fallow plots and 20 broods hatching on spring cereals per annum.
(4) Determination of chick invertebrate diet from faecal samples in relation to invertebrate availability.
(5) Estimation of chick survival and determination of the relative importance of starvation and predation as causes of chick mortality, including investigation of situations resulting in poor chick condition and growth rates and situations where there are high rates of predation.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : BD5211 Final report   (542k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2012

To: 2014

Cost: £229,793
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Game & Wildlife Conversation Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Environmental Stewardship