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Keywords:

  • birds;
  • Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program;
  • CRP;
  • farmland;
  • grassland;
  • landscape;
  • Pennsylvania

Abstract

The Pennsylvania Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) was initiated in 2000 and within 4 years, 40,000 ha of conservation grasslands were established in southern Pennsylvania. We determined whether CREP habitat has benefitted farmland and grassland bird populations during the 10 years since the program began. From 2001 to 2010, bird surveyors conducted road-side point counts in a 20-county area in south-central Pennsylvania. We observed positive CREP effects on the abundances (in 2009–2010) and changes in abundance (from 2001–2002 to 2009–2010) of 5 species, including eastern meadowlark (Sturnella magna); negative CREP effects for 3 species, including vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus); and no CREP effects for 2 species, including grasshopper sparrows (Ammodramus savannarum). We additionally observed changes in the size and direction of the local CREP effects (within 250 m of count locations) depending on the amount of CREP grassland or field cover in the surrounding landscape (within 5,000 m of survey routes). For example, the local CREP effect on the change in abundance of eastern meadowlarks was 15 times greater at points nested within landscapes with 9% CREP cover compared to landscapes with 1% CREP cover, indicating the potential for greater benefits of adding new CREP grasslands to areas with more CREP habitat already in the surrounding area. We conclude that more careful spatial targeting of CREP enrollment could improve the benefits of the program for farmland and grassland bird populations. © The Wildlife Society, 2013