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Agricultural intensification and farmland birds: new insights from a central European country

Authors

  • JIŘÍ REIF,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Vinicna 7, 128 44 Praha 2, Czech Republic
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  • PETR VOŘÍŠEK,

    1. Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring, Czech Society for Ornithology, Na Belidle 34, 150 00 Praha 5, Czech Republic
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  • KAREL Š?ASTNÝ,

    1. Department of Ecology and Environment, Faculty of Environment, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Kamycka 1176, 165 21 Praha 6, Czech Republic
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  • VLADIMÍR BEJČEK,

    1. Department of Ecology and Environment, Faculty of Environment, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Kamycka 1176, 165 21 Praha 6, Czech Republic
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  • JIŘÍ PETR

    1. Department of Crop Production, Faculty of Agrobiology, Food and Natural Resources, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Kamycka 129, 165 21 Praha 6, Czech Republic
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*Corresponding author.
Email: jirireif@yahoo.com

Abstract

The relationship between agricultural intensification and a decline in farmland bird populations is well documented in Europe, but the results are mostly based on data from the western part of the continent. In the former socialist eastern and central European countries, political changes around 1990 resulted in a steep decline in the intensity of agriculture. Therefore, one would expect populations of farmland birds to have recovered under these conditions of lower agricultural intensity. We explored population trends of 19 farmland bird species in the Czech Republic between 1982 and 2003 using data from a large-scale monitoring scheme, and, additionally, we looked for relationships between such population changes and a number of variables describing the temporal development of Czech agriculture. Most farmland species declined during the focal period, and this decline was steepest in farmland specialists (Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, Skylark Alauda arvensis, Linnet Carduelis cannabina and Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella). Although the intensity of agriculture was lower after than before 1990, the overall decline continued in most farmland bird species, albeit at a slower rate. The correlations between agricultural intensity and farmland bird decline showed opposite patterns to that found in other European studies, because bird populations were highest in years with the most intensive agriculture. We speculate that this pattern could have resulted from the impact of different driving forces causing farmland bird decline in different periods. The high intensity of agriculture could have caused the decline of the originally abundant populations before 1990. After 1990, the decreasing area of arable land could be the most important factor resulting in the continued decline of farmland bird populations. Our results demonstrate that the drivers of farmland bird population changes could differ across Europe, and thus investigations into the effect of farmland management in different parts of the continent are urgently required.

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