Plant trees on farmland

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

  • Two studies evaluated the effects of planting trees on farmland to benefit reptiles. Both studies were in Australia.


  • Richness/diversity (2 studies): One replicated, paired sites study in Australia found that pastures with tree plantings had similar rare reptile species richness compared to pastures with no trees, but that more rare species were present with 50% canopy cover compared to 5% cover. One replicated, site comparison study in Australia found that farms with restoration planting (of native ground cover and trees) had lower reptile species richness than farms with remnant vegetation (of old growth woodland or natural regrowth).


  • Abundance (1 study): One replicated, paired sites study in Australia found that pastures with tree plantings had higher abundance of rare reptiles than pastures with no trees, and that rare reptiles were more abundant with 50% canopy cover compared to 5% cover.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, site comparison study in 2002–2005 on 46 farms in New South Wales, Australia (Cunningham et al. 2007) found that reptile species richness was lower on farms with 7–20-year-old restoration plantings compared to farms without restoration plantings. Reptile species richness was lower in restoration planting plots (1.5 species/plot) compared to remnant natural vegetation plots (2.0 species/plot), and lower on farms with restoration plantings (3.6 species/farm) compared to farms without restoration plantings (4.7 species/farm). Of 22 reptile species detected, 11 were not recorded in restoration plantings (see paper for individual species abundances). Twenty-three landscapes (10,000 ha circles) were defined and two farms/landscape were selected. Twenty-three farms contained restoration plantings and 23 did not. Restoration plantings were 7–20-years-old (native ground cover and trees), and were compared to areas of remnant natural vegetation (old growth woodland, self-seeded regrowth woodland or coppice regrowth woodland recovering from logging or fire). In spring 2002–2005, four 1 ha plots/farm (184 total plots, number taken from text) were surveyed for reptiles along transects using active searches (20 minutes x 1 ha) and point searches under artificial substrates (corrugated iron sheets, piles of offcut wood or sets of four roof tiles, two points/transect). On farms with restoration planting, three plots/site were in restored vegetation and one plot/site was in remnant vegetation.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, paired sites study in 2014–2015 in six grazing pastures in New South Wales, Australia (Pulsford et al. 2017) found that planting trees in pasture paddocks increased rare reptile species abundance but not rare species richness. Rare reptile abundance in tree-planted pasture was greater (0.9 individuals/paddock) than in pasture without trees (0.7 individuals/paddock). Rare species richness was statistically similar in tree-planted pasture (2.8 species/paddock) and pasture without trees (1.9 species/paddock). Rare species richness and abundance were associated with amounts of surrounding woody vegetation, such that the authors estimated there to be 2.6 more rare species and 5.7 more counts of rare reptiles in sites with 50% woody cover compared to sites with 5% woody cover within three km (see original paper for individual species responses). In January 2014–March 2015, reptiles were surveyed in six farms grazed by sheep Ovis aries or cattle Bos Taurus in paddocks directly adjacent to remnants of native open grassy woodland. On each farm, two transects (each 80 m long) were surveyed: grazed pasture and grazed pasture with linear tree plantings (10–25 m between linear plantings, Eucalyptus and Acacia species planted in the previous 30 years). Surveys were carried out using drift fences, pitfall traps and funnel traps set at 20, 50 and 80 m intervals. Surveys took place for 5 days at a time in austral spring–summer. Rare species were defined as those captured in ≤4 sites with <70 total captures.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Sainsbury K.A., Morgan W.H., Watson M., Rotem G., Bouskila A., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2021) Reptile Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for reptiles. Conservation Evidence Series Synopsis. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

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Reptile Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Reptile Conservation
Reptile Conservation

Reptile Conservation - Published 2021

Reptile synopsis

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