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- PublicationSurvey evaluation for species richness of farmland birdsTo estimate biodiversity it may be important to establish whether increased data can be obtained from repeated surveys. Bird species richness was determined after repeated surveys in winter and in the breeding season. Data were collected over two breeding seasons and two winter seasons at nine sites, with three surveys in each winter and four surveys in each breeding season using a standard method. Poisson models were used to determine differences in total cumulative species richness recorded after each additional survey. There were significant increases in species richness in winter between survey one and survey two and between survey two and survey three across nine sites. There was a significant increase between survey one and survey two for resident breeding species richness. Based on pure species richness, three surveys recorded at least 95% of the total observed species richness recorded after four surveys in the breeding season within the agricultural survey area.
- PublicationThe significance of biodiversity in agriculture: relevance, aims and progress of the Ag-Biota ProjectWe describe and review the scientific and policy background with respect to the impact of agriculture on biodiversity and outline the structure and objectives of the Ag-Biota Project. The latter is a large, multiinstitutional study funded by the ERTDI Programme (2000–2006) under the aegis of the National Development Plan. As such, Ag-Biota represents an ongoing commitment to the protection and conservation of biodiversity, and the integration of policy towards the achievement of these goals in all economic sectors. Ag-Biota is addressing directly the practical needs for agri-environmental policy development, such as the need to identify suitable biodiversity indicators for agriculture and begin the development of realistic and practical monitoring and assessment methods; is focussing on the development of ecological understanding concerning the more effective utilisation of beneficial biological populations and processes within the agro-ecosystem; and is asking more fundamental ecological questions concerning the functional role and significance of biological diversity in community structures. The Ag-Biota project represents a suitably policy-focussed response to, and a considerable investment in, the needs of Irish biodiversity research within the context of modern agriculture. As such, we feel that the project is a good model for future biodiversity research, addressing the need for information and an appropriate knowledge base to support practical environmental protection measures.
- PublicationThe impact of farming on over-wintering bird populationsField boundaries and fields in stubble, set-aside, winter wheat and improved grassland in County Kildare were surveyed for birds on 15 occasions between October 2001 and February 2002. A total of 40 species was recorded on all sites during the period of the study. Arable farming that retains stubble throughout the winter supports the greatest species richness and diversity with the lowest being recorded on improved grassland. Individual species showed preference for certain sites. Seed-feeding species, yellowhammer and skylark, preferred stubble while invertebrate-feeding species, fieldfare and meadow pipit preferred grassland. The analysis demonstrated that certain components of habitat were responsible for differences in species present and density.
- PublicationFarmland birds and the field boundary evaluation and grading system in IrelandField boundaries are important habitats for birds within the agricultural landscape. In this study, bird surveys were carried out during the winter and breeding season on nine farms in the east and south-east of Ireland and field boundaries at each site were assessed using the Field Boundary Evaluation and Grading System (FBEGS). Poisson regression demonstrated that FBEGS scores were a good predictor of both winter and breeding bird species richness and diversity within the field boundaries studied. We interpret these preliminary results with caution since our sample size was relatively small (compared to the wide variety of field boundary types found in Ireland) and no single combination of field boundary attributes is likely to be optimum for all bird species. However, our results suggest that FBEGS may be a useful surrogate indicator of overall field boundary bird diversity and we discuss the consequent implications for agri-environmental policy, and for the possible adaptation and use of FBEGS as a tool to monitor the impact of changing farm management practice.
- PublicationBreeding bird populations of Irish peatlands : capsule peatlands are very important habitats for birds despite low species diversityAims to describe the variation in breeding bird populations that occur on different types of Irish peatlands and their associated habitat characteristics. Methods: Bird abundance and diversity were compared between four peatland habitat types: fens; raised bogs; Atlantic blanket bogs; and montane blanket bogs at twelve study sites using transects. Various measures of habitat quality were also taken at each location. Results: Only 21 species were recorded during the study with Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis and Sky Lark Alauda arvensis accounting for over 80% of all birds recorded. Fens had greater bird species diversity and densities than the other three peatland types. Raised bogs, Atlantic blanket bogs and montane blanket bogs were very similar in terms of their avian diversity. Each of the recorded bird species were associated with different aspects of the peatland habitat. Conclusion: This study shows that despite the relatively low avian species diversity of Irish peatlands, they are of enormous conservation value due to the presence of species of high conservation concern such as Red Grouse (Willow Ptarmigan) Lagopus lagopus and Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata.
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- PublicationA comparison of winter bird communities in agricultural grassland and cereal habitats in Ireland: implications for Common Agricultural Policy reformCapsule. In winter, grassland sites had greater bird numbers compared to winter cereals, but a number of species of conservation concern were exclusively recorded on winter cereals. Aims. To compare the winter bird communities in grassland and winter cereal fields. Methods. Grassland and winter cereal fields were surveyed for overwintering birds in a landscape of mixed grassland and arable agriculture. Results. Generalized Linear Models demonstrated that total bird abundance, the mean abundance of the majority of ecological groups and that of several common species, were significantly greater in grassland compared with winter cereal fields. However, a number of species of conservation concern, e.g. Skylark Aluda arvensis, were observed only on winter cereal fields. Only a minority of bird variables showed a positive response to field size. Of these, total bird species richness and the Shannon and Simpson's diversity indices showed positive significant responses to increasing field size, which may alternatively and perhaps more correctly be interpreted as a positive response to field boundary density within the farmed landscape. Conclusions. Farmland habitats are important for the provision of overwintering resources for birds, and policy directed towards bird conservation should target the management of locally significant habitat types. The implications of these findings are discussed in light of the proposed revision of the Common Agricultural Policy in 2014, particularly the proposed measure for crop diversification.
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