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Keywords:

  • agricultural management;
  • farmland birds;
  • grassland habitats;
  • invertebrate prey items;
  • wider environmental factors

Summary

  • 1
    Good progress has been made in bringing the importance of high-nature-conservation-value farming systems to the attention of a wider audience. However, simply having a broad appreciation of which farming systems are good for certain species or species assemblages is of little use without a detailed understanding of how each particular farming system functions and integrates with the species reliant upon that system as a whole.
  • 2
    Many species have intimate and complex interactions with the annual farming cycle, and their presence on any one piece of farmland is determined not only by the farm management occurring at that time but also by the management practised over the previous weeks and months. Since their exact farm management requirements are not fully understood, it would currently be difficult (if not impossible) to put in place the exact set of conditions necessary to ensure the continued occurrence of many desired species.
  • 3
    Consequently, a detailed understanding of the ecological relationships involved is essential before advice can be provided on how best to develop any individual farming system (and the associated policies) so that the ecological characteristics of the system of value to the wildlife assemblages are maintained.
  • 4
    These issues are highlighted and illustrated with reference to the findings from research into the ecology and requirements of the chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax and the effects of farm management practices on ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and leatherjackets (Diptera: Tipulidae), which together can form important prey items for birds associated with grassland habitats.