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Individual study: A review of experiments on the effects of livestock farm agri-environment measures on birds in the UK

Published source details

Buckingham D.L, Atkinson P.W., Peel S. & Peach W. (2010) New conservation measures for birds on grassland and livestock farms. Proceedings of the Lowland Farmland Birds III: delivering solutions in an uncertain world, 60.


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

Provide refuges during harvest or mowing Farmland Conservation

A 2010 review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found one trial from 2006 to 2008 demonstrating that uncut nesting refuges for Eurasian skylark Alauda arvensis in silage fields were not used more than other areas. Refuge plots of 1 ha were cut with a raised mowing height in the first silage cut, then left uncut for the rest of the season. The plots were preferred for re-nesting for two weeks following the first cut, but subsequently did not have higher nest densities than other areas. Skylarks continually re-nest rather than re-nesting in a batch after each cut. After the second cut, safe areas were completely avoided by skylarks. This study formed part of a Defra-funded project (BD1454) as in (Defra 2010) for which no reference is given in the review.

Leave refuges in fields during harvest Bird Conservation

A review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found one trial from 2006 to 2008 demonstrating that uncut nesting refuges for skylarks Alauda arvensis in silage fields were not used more than other areas. Refuge plots of 1 ha were cut with raised mowing height in the first silage cut, then left uncut for the rest of the season. The plots were preferred for re-nesting for two weeks following the first cut, but subsequently did not have higher nest densities than other areas. Skylarks continually re-nest rather than re-nesting in a batch after each cut. After the second cut, safe areas were completely avoided by skylarks. This study formed part of a Defra-funded project (BD1454) for which no reference is given in the review.

 

Plant cereals for whole crop silage Farmland Conservation

A review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found one study on cereal-based whole crop silage  (in which winter wheat planted for silage was avoided by seed-eating birds during winter, but used as much as a control spring barley crop during summer. Maize planted for silage was little used by birds in summer or winter. Fields on 16 livestock farms were studied for two growing seasons, from 2004 and 2006. Four crop-types were studied on each farm: grass, winter wheat, maize, spring barley. These results are reported in more detail by (Peach et al. 2011). This study formed part of a Defra-funded project BD1448 (Defra 2007).

Additional reference:

Defra (2007) Cereal-based whole crop silages: a potential conservation mechanism for farmland birds in pastoral landscapes. Defra report number BD1448.

Plant cereals for whole crop silage Bird Conservation

A review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found one study of CBWCS in which winter wheat planted for silage was avoided by seed-eating birds during winter, but used as much as a control spring barley crop during summer. Maize planted for silage was little used by birds in summer or winter. These results are reported in more detail by Peach et al. (2011). This study also describes the results of several other interventions, discussed in the relevant sections.

 

Raise mowing height on grasslands to benefit birds Bird Conservation

A review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found one trial from 2006 to 2008 that tested the effect of mowing height on skylarks Alauda arvensis nesting in silage fields. Preliminary results showed that chick survival was not affected by raised cutting height. However, the number of new birds produced each year (productivity) was more sensitive to re-nesting rates than chick survival. Raised cutting height slightly increased productivity, because skylarks re-nested sooner after cutting, but this was not enough to maintain a local population given survival rates. This study formed part of a Defra-funded project (BD1454) for which no reference is given in the review.

 

Leave uncut rye grass in silage fields for birds Bird Conservation

A review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found that leaving rye grass Lolium perenne silage uncut was shown to benefit seed-eating birds in winter in one experiment. These are further results from a study discussed in Buckingham et al. (2004), with no reference given (Defra project BD1455). Only plots cut once during previous season produced large seed crops and attracted yellowhammers Emberiza citrinella (0.5 birds per visit on average) and reed buntings E. schoeniclus, (approximately 2 birds/visit on average) but not finches. Plots cut twice or three times (control) did not attract these birds. Birds were observed over two winters.

 

Use mowing techniques to reduce chick mortality Bird Conservation

A review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found one trial from 2006 to 2008 that tested the effect of mowing techniques to reduce mortality of Eurasian skylarks Alauda arvensis nesting in silage fields. Preliminary results showed that chick survival was strongly affected by the type of machinery used. Survival was four times higher using wider machinery and reducing the number of machinery passes than without these changes. However, the number of new birds produced each year (productivity) was more sensitive to re-nesting rates than chick survival. This study formed part of a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) funded project (BD1454) for which no reference is given in the review.

 

Leave uncut strips of rye grass on silage fields Farmland Conservation

A 2010 review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found that leaving perennial rye grass Lolium perenne silage uncut was shown to benefit seed-eating birds in winter in one experiment. These are further results from a study discussed in (Buckingham et al. 2004), with no reference given (Defra project BD1455). Only plots cut once during the previous season produced large seed crops and attracted yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella (5.5 birds/visit on average) and reed bunting E. schoeniclus, (approximately 2 birds/visit on average) but not finches. Plots cut twice or three times (control) did not attract these birds. Birds were observed over two winters.

 

Use mowing techniques to reduce mortality Farmland Conservation

A 2010 review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found one trial from 2006 to 2008 that tested the effect of mowing techniques in reducing mortality of Eurasian skylarks Alauda arvensis nesting in silage fields. Preliminary results showed that chick survival was strongly affected by the type of machinery used. Survival was four times higher using wider machinery and reducing the number of machinery passes than without these changes. However, the number of new birds produced each year (productivity) was more sensitive to re-nesting rates than chick survival. This study formed part of a Defra-funded project BD1454 which is also summarized in (Defra 2010).

Reduce management intensity on permanent grasslands for birds Bird Conservation

A review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found two replicated trials in southwest England showing that reduced management intensity on permanent grasslands benefits foraging birds. Both found higher numbers of invertebrates, seed heads and foraging birds at lower management intensity (less fertiliser, less cutting, less grazing or a combination of these). One study was the PEBIL project, also reported in Defra BD1444 (2007). The other was part of a Defra-funded project focussed largely on the effects of reduced grazing pressure (Defra report BD1454) for which no reference is given in the review. See ‘Reduce grazing intensity on permanent grasslands’ for more information.

 

Raise mowing height on grasslands to benefit farmland wildlife Farmland Conservation

A 2010 review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found one trial from 2006 to 2008 that tested the effect of mowing height on skylarks Alauda arvensis nesting in silage fields. Preliminary results showed that chick survival was not affected by raised cutting height. However, the number of new birds produced each year (productivity) was more sensitive to re-nesting rates than chick survival. Raised cutting height slightly increased productivity because skylarks re-nested sooner after cutting, but this was not enough to maintain a local population given survival rates. This study formed part of a Defra-funded project (BD1454) for which no reference is given in the review.

 

Reduce grazing intensity Bird Conservation

A review of UK experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found two replicated controlled trials that reduced grazing pressure (fewer cattle, cattle removed from July onwards, or both) over two to four years. One also reduced fertiliser input from 150 to 50 kg N/ha. Reduced grazing significantly increased the number of foraging skylarks Alauda arvensis on the trial fields in both studies. Birds that eat only seeds - European goldfinch Carduelis carduelis and linnet Carduelis cannabina - preferred plots with cattle removed in July. These studies formed part of a Defra-funded project (BD1454) for which no reference is given in the review. The study including low fertiliser input used eight replicates, the other used 14. The review assessed results from four experimental projects (one incomplete at the time of the review) in the UK. This study also discusses other interventions, described in the relevant sections.

 

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

A 2010 review of UK experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found two replicated controlled trials that reduced grazing pressure (fewer cattle, cattle removed from July onwards, or both) in pastures over two to four years. One of the studies also reduced fertilizer input from 150 to 50 kg N/ha. Lenient grazing (grass height 12-16 cm) significantly increased the numbers of insects (bugs (Hemiptera)), the production of seed heads in the grasslands and the number of foraging Eurasian skylark Alauda arvensis on trial fields in both studies. Birds that eat only seeds - European goldfinch Carduelis carduelis and Eurasian linnet C. cannabina, preferred plots with cattle removed in July. There were eight replicates in the study with additional low fertilizer input and 14 replicates in the other study. These studies formed part of a Defra-funded project (BD1454) for which no reference is given in the review.

 

Plant wild bird seed or cover mixture Bird Conservation

A follow-up review of experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010), found that in one experiment in southwest England (the PEBIL project, also reported (Defra 2007), small insect-eating birds preferred grassland margins sown with plants providing seed food over plots of grassland subject to various managements, despite there being no difference in insect numbers between the two sets of treatments. The preference for wild bird cover was attributed to easier accessibility (less dense ground cover). The review assessed results from four experimental projects (one incomplete at the time of the review) in the UK.

 

Reduce management intensity on permanent grasslands (several interventions at once) Farmland Conservation

A 2010 review of four experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010) found two replicated trials in southwest England showing that reduced management intensity on permanent grasslands benefits foraging birds. Both found higher numbers of invertebrates, seed heads and foraging birds at lower management intensity (less fertilizer, less cutting, less grazing or a combination of these). One study was the Potential for Enhancing Biodiversity on Intensive Livestock Farms (PEBIL) project, also reported in (Defra 2007) (Defra report BD1444). The other was part of a Defra-funded project focussed largely on the effects of reduced grazing pressure (BD1454) for which no reference is given in the review.

 

Plant wild bird seed or cover mixture Farmland Conservation

A 2010 follow-up review of experiments on the effects of agri-environment measures on livestock farms in the UK (Buckingham et al. 2010), found that in one experiment in southwest England (the Potential for Enhancing Biodiversity on Intensive Livestock Farms PEBIL project BD1444, also reported in (Defra 2007)) found small insect-eating birds preferred field margins sown with a diverse mixture of plants that provided seed food; compared to grass margins subject to different management techniques, despite there being no difference in the number of insects between the two sets of treatments. The preference for wild bird cover was attributed to easier accessibility (less dense ground cover). The review assessed results from four experimental projects (one incomplete at the time of the review) in the UK.