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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Hares and skylarks as indicators of environmentally sensitive farming on the South Downs

Published source details

Wakeham-Dawson A. (1995) Hares and skylarks as indicators of environmentally sensitive farming on the South Downs. PhD thesis. The Open University.


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Plant crops in spring rather than autumn Farmland Conservation

A replicated study in 1992 and 1993 within the South Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area, Sussex, UK (Wakeham-Dawson 1995) found that winter and spring-sown crops were used for different broods by Eurasian skylark Alauda arvensis. Winter-sown crops tended to be used more for first brood nesting skylarks (first brood period: 8-15 males/km², second: 4-9), whereas spring-sown crops were used more for the second brood (first brood period: 3-4 males/km², second: 7-14). Four arable, 10 mixed and three pastoral farms were studied. Skylarks were sampled by mapping breeding males during two counts along transects on 12-17 farms from April to June.

 

Convert or revert arable land to permanent grassland Farmland Conservation

A replicated study from 1992 to 1994 in the South Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area, Sussex, UK (Wakeham-Dawson 1995) found that foraging brown hares Lepus europaeus generally avoided farms and areas of farms that had been converted from arable crops to Environmentally Sensitive Area grasslands. Four arable, 10 mixed and three pastoral farms were studied. Hares were sampled by spotlight counting over an average of 26% of the area of each farm between November and March (1992-1993, 1993-1994).

 

Pay farmers to cover the cost of conservation measures (as in agri-environment schemes) Farmland Conservation

A replicated study from 1992 to 1994 within the South Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area, Sussex, UK (Wakeham-Dawson 1995) found that Eurasian skylark Alauda arvensis numbers increased but brown hare Lepus europaeus numbers were stable over two years on the Environmentally Sensitive Area farms. There were significantly more breeding pairs of skylark in 1993 (5 males/km²) compared to 1992 (3 males/km²). The number of hares remained stable over the study period. Four arable, 10 mixed and three pastoral farms were studied. Hares were sampled by spotlight counting over an average of 26% of the area of each farm between November and March (1992-1993, 1993-1994). Skylarks were sampled by mapping breeding males during two counts along transects on 12-17 farms from April to June (1992 and 1993).

 

Reduce grazing intensity on grassland (including seasonal removal of livestock) Farmland Conservation

A replicated study in 1992 and 1993 within the South Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area, Sussex, UK (Wakeham-Dawson 1995) found that breeding Eurasian skylarks Alauda arvensis avoided heavily grazed pasture. Grassland that was heavily grazed by sheep was generally not used by skylarks during the second brood period, whereas areas that were not grazed or mown until mid-July onwards were used for both first and second broods. Four arable, 10 mixed and three pastoral farms were studied. Skylarks were sampled by mapping breeding males during two counts along transects on 12-17 farms from April to June.

 

Provide or retain set-aside areas in farmland Farmland Conservation

A replicated site comparison study of four arable, 10 mixed and three pastoral farms within the South Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area, UK (Wakeham-Dawson 1995) found that rotational set-aside tended to be used more than arable crops by skylarks Alauda arvensis, but used less or a similar amount by hares Lepus euroaepus.  Rotational set-aside was used significantly more than arable crops during the first skylark brood period (22 vs 3-15 males/km²). During the second brood, once set-aside had been topped or cultivated, use of set-aside by skylarks was more similar to their use of arable crops (topped: 16; cultivated: 8; arable: 9-14).  Hares used winter sown cereals more than rotational set-aside in October-January (0.2-0.3 vs 0.1 hares/ha), but in February set-aside was used the same amount as crops (0.1 hares/ha).  Hares were sampled by spotlight counting over an average of 26% of the area of each farm between November and March (1992-1993, 1993-1994).  Skylarks were sampled by mapping breeding males during two counts along representative transects on 12-17 farms in April-June (1992-1993).