High-yielding, wildlife-friendly farming?

A negative relationship between the intensity of farming and the densities of birds breeding on farmland was found across Europe and reported here:

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/268/1462/25

In other words, bird populations tend to be lower in more intensive farmland.

This has been true in practice, to date, across Europe, but can the relationship be broken: is it possible to maintain high yields and increase the population densities of birds nesting on farmland? Can high-yield farming also be wildlife-friendly – or at least farmland bird friendly? Work by the RSPB at Hope Farm (a conventional ‘intensive’ farm at which the RSPB is testing the response by birds to various bird-friendly management techniques) suggests that bird populations can indeed be increased in intensive farmland. If this is generally true, can we have the best of all worlds: high-yield farmland, supporting good populations of farmland-associated wildlife, and land spared for species unable to persist without conflict on farmland?

 

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One thought on “High-yielding, wildlife-friendly farming?

  1. Hi Steve – here’s another good example of ‘ecological intensification’: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/282/1816/20151740

    Having wide field margins, despite eating into the sown area, actually results in minimal yield loss, or even yield gains, across the field as a whole. This is presumably due to the services (pest control, pollination) provided by the wildlife inhabiting the margins. A really nice example of the potential synergies between biodiversity and food production.

    It’s not quite that simple though – the result is at least partly driven by the fact that field edges are lower yielding (shade from hedges, pressure from weeds, etc), so replacing them with a field margin doesn’t cost much in terms of yield. I wonder whether, if hedgerows were grubbed up so that fields became bigger, with relatively less ‘edge’, yields would be higher than under ‘ecological intensification’ (at least for crops like wheat which aren’t insect pollinated).

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