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Keywords:

  • bioenergy;
  • biomass production;
  • ecological sustainability;
  • landscape structure;
  • land-use change;
  • regional scale;
  • simulation model;
  • Skylark

Abstract

Bioenergy production is seen as one way of meeting future energy needs. The growing demand for biomass for energy production induces the cultivation of a few fast growing and high-yielding energy crops on vast areas of arable land. This land-use change has been found associated with the reduction of habitat suitability for farmland birds and a decline in farmland biodiversity in general. A large number of studies have assessed the ecological effects of energy crop cultivation at the local scale of a single field. This study focuses on regional landscape changes caused by increased energy crop cultivation, which includes reduction of crop-type richness and spatial concentration of single crop-types. We present a spatially explicit ecological model to assess the population-level consequences of these effects on the abundance of the farmland bird species Skylark (Alauda arvensis). We also investigate the impacts of different land-use scenarios and aim to identify adaptive conservation options. We show that (1) the impacts of increased energy crop cultivation on Skylark population abundance depend strongly on the landscape structure; (2) impacts could be tolerated as long as a certain minimum level of crop-type heterogeneity is retained at the landscape level and (3) conservation actions are required and effective especially on landscapes where crop-field size is large.