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Effects of landscape composition on farmland and red-listed birds in boreal agricultural-forest mosaics

Authors

  • Raimo Virkkala,

  • Miska Luoto,

  • Kalle Rainio


R. Virkkala (raimo.virkkala@ymparisto.fi) and M. Luoto, Finnish Environment Inst., Research Dept, Research Programme for Biodiversity, P. O. Box 140, FIN-00251 Helsinki, Finland. – K. Rainio, Dept of Biology, Univ. of Turku, FIN-20014 Turku, Finland.

Abstract

Farmland birds have declined in large areas of western and northern Europe. This decline has been connected with changes in the agricultural landscape. We studied the effects of landscape composition on birds in a boreal agricultural-forest mosaic in SW Finland. This study was carried out with a grid-based approach: bird pairs were counted in 105 grid squares of 25 ha within an area of 26.25 km2. The total density of farmland birds and density of red-listed species were related to the land cover variables using generalized linear modelling (GLM). Farmland birds consist of a variable group of species either breeding or feeding in agricultural land. The model explained a moderate proportion (49%) of the variation in the total density of farmland birds in the landscape. In a regression analysis cover of non-arable agricultural land (semi-natural grasslands, built-up areas) explained a much higher proportion (r2=0.49) of the variation in farmland bird density than that of arable land (cultivated fields and set-aside fields, r2=0.04). Semi-natural grasslands, which have drastically declined throughout NW Europe, and built-up areas (mainly farmyards) had the most significant positive effects on the density of red-listed species. The results emphasize the significance of semi-natural grasslands for the declining red-listed farmland bird species. Birds are usually not restricted to certain patches of habitat but use several patches in their home range. Thus, when studying bird-landscape relations for land use planning, we also recommend grid-based approaches covering the whole landscape variation.

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