Action: Provide ‘sacrificial’ grasslands to reduce the impact of wild geese on crops
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
Two studies in the UK found that managing grasslands for geese increased the number grazing there. However, both found that the birds were moving within a relatively small area (i.e. within the study sites) and therefore the grasslands may not reduce conflict with farmers.
There have been dramatic increases in many species of goose in recent decades (Madsen et al. 1999) and this has led to increasing conflict with farmers, as many species graze on arable land, potentially ruining crops. One potential solution, to reduce conflict whilst maintaining the populations of geese is to provide ‘sacrificial grasslands’ – areas set-aside for geese to feed on, which keeps them away from agricultural fields.
To be useful, such areas need to be more attractive than neighbouring fields. Interventions detailing specific management practices are mainly described in ‘Threat: Natural system modifications’, whilst the studies below describe whether the provision of sacrificial grasslands actually affects the distribution of geese in an area.
Madsen, J., Cracknell, G. and Fox, A.D. (1999) Goose Populations of the Western Palearctic. A Review of Status and Distribution, Wetlands International Publication No. 48. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A before-and-after study in Gloucestershire, England (Owen 1977) found that up to 87% of geese on a grassland site used a 130 ha area managed for them in 1975-6. The interventions used are discussed in ‘Reduce grazing intensity’, ‘Increase crop diversity’ and ‘Undersow spring cereals’.
A replicated, controlled trial in 1984-7 on a reserve on the island of Islay, west Scotland (Percival 1993), found more barnacle geese Branta leucopsis used wet pasture fields if they were re-seeded or fertilised than if they were unmanaged. However, increases were due to a redistribution of local birds, rather than new birds visiting the reserve. The author therefore suggests that improving the reserve grasslands will only minimally reduce conflict with farmers elsewhere on the island. The details of management interventions are discussed in ‘Re-seed grasslands’ and ‘Fertilise grasslands’.
- Owen M. (1977) The role of wildfowl refuges on agricultural land in lessening the conflict between farmers and geese in Britain. Biological Conservation, 11, 209-222
- Percival S.M. (1993) The effects of reseeding, fertilizer application and disturbance on the use of grasslands by barnacle geese, and the implications for refuge management. Journal of Applied Ecology, 30, 437-443