Bush, bugs, and birds; interdependency in a farming landscape


Changes in farming practices over the second half of the twentieth century greatly reduced the extent of natural areas remaining within agricultural landscapes. Field margins and hedgerows have recently been recognized as important habitat in maintaining wildlife diversity and proper ecosystem functioning. Ecotones, defined as the transitionary area of vegetation between woody plant species and the arable crop, are an especially important landscape element for birds and arthropods. In this manuscript, we aimed to evaluate which hedgerow attribute was best at predicting avian densities in a conventional and organic farming landscape. Furthermore, we wished to investigate if these same hedgerow attributes could explain arthropod family density, richness and diversity, and how these were correlated to avian densities. An information theory-based multimodel inference method was used to identify which factors influenced variability in avian densities. Although not always significant, avian densities increased with arthropod richness at our study sites. Ecotone width is the best predictor of avian densities and arthropod richness while percent gap is the most important factor if a manager wishes to increase avian diversity (H’) in hedgerow habitats. Increasing ecotone width benefits both avian densities and arthropod richness that in turn further increases bird numbers in our farming landscape.

Share and Cite:

Thomas, P. , Martin, P. and Boutin, C. (2011) Bush, bugs, and birds; interdependency in a farming landscape. Open Journal of Ecology, 1, 9-23. doi: 10.4236/oje.2011.12002.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] O'Connor, R.J. and Shrubb, M. (1986) Farming and Birds, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
[2] Hinsley, S.A. and Bellamy, P.E. (2000) The influence of hedge structure management and landscape context on the value of hedgerows to birds: A review, Journal of Environmental Management, 60, 33-49. doi.10.1006/jema.2000.0360
[3] Green, R.E., Cornell, S.J. and Scharlemann, J.P. (2005) Farming and the fate of wild nature, Science, 307, 550-555. doi.10.1126/science.1106049
[4] Hole, D.G., Perkins, A.J. and Wilson, J.D. (2005) Does organic farming benefit biodiversity? Biological Cons- ervation, 122, 113-130. doi.10.1016/j.biocon.2004.07.018
[5] Donald, P.F., Green, R.E. and Heath, M.F. (2000) Agricultural intensification and the collapse of Europe’s farmland bird populations, Proceedings of the Royal So- ciety London, Series B, 268, 25-29. doi.10.1098/rspb.2000.1325
[6] Douglas, D.J.T., Vickery, J.A. and Benton, T.G. (2009) Improving the value of field margins as foraging habitat for farmland birds, Journal of Applied Ecology, 46, 353-362. doi.10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01613.x
[7] Robinson, R.A. and Sutherland, W.J. (2002) Post-war changes in arable farming and biodiversity in Great Britain, Journal of Applied Ecology, 39, 157-176. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2664.2002.00695.x
[8] Newton, I. (2004) The recent declines of farmland bird populations in Britain: an appraisal of causal factors and conservation actions, Ibises, 146, 579-600. doi.10.1111/j.1474-919X.2004.00375.x
[9] Vickery, J.A., Carter, N. and Fuller, R.J. (2002) The potential value of managed cereal field margins as foraging habitats for farmland birds in the UK, Agri- culture, Ecosystems and Environment, 89, 41-52. doi.10.1016/S0167-8809(01)00317-6
[10] Moles, R.T. and Breen, J. (1995) Long-term change within lowland farmland bird communities in relation to field boundary attributes, Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 95B, 203-215.
[11] Demers, M.N., Simpson, J.W., Boerner, R.E.J., Silva, A., Berns, L. and Artigas, F. (1995) Fencerows, edges, and implications of changing connectivity illustrated by two contiguous Ohio landscapes, Conservation Biology, 9, 1159–1168. doi.10.1046/j.1523-1739.1995.9051148.x-i1
[12] Parish, T. Lakhani, K.H. and Sparks, T.H. (1995) Modelling the relationship between bird population var- iables and hedgerow, and other field margin attributes. II. Abundance of individual species and of groups of similar species, Journal of Applied Ecology, 32, 362-371. doi.10.2307/2405102
[13] Ralph, C.J., Sauer, J.R. and Droege S. (1995) Monitoring Bird Populations by Point Counts. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-149, Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Albany.
[14] Boutin, C., Martin, P.A. and Baril, A. (2009) Arthropod diversity as affected by agricultural management (org- anic and conventional farming), plant species, and landscape context, Ecoscience, 16, 492-501. doi.10.2980/16-4-3250
[15] Boutin, C., Baril, A., McCabe, S.K., Martin, P.A. and Guy, M. (2011) The value of woody hedgerows for moth diversity on organic and conventional farms, Biological Conservation, (in press).
[16] Conover, R.R., Burger, L.W.Jr., and Linder, E.T. (2009) Breeding bird response to field border presence and width, The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 121, 548-555. doi.10.1676/08-082.1
[17] Anderson, D.R., Burnham, K.P. and Thompson, W.L. (2000) Null hypothesis testing: problems, prevalence and an alternative, Journal of Wildlife Management, 64, 912-923. doi.10.2307/3803199
[18] Guthery, F.S., Brennan, L.A., and Petersen, M.J. (2005) Information theory in wildlife science: critique and viewpoint, Journal of Wildlife Management, 69, 457-465. doi.10.2193/0022-541X(2005)069[0457:ITIWSC]2.0.CO;2
[19] Rogers, C.A., and Freemark, K.E. (1991) A feasibility study comparing birds from organic and conventional (chemical) farms in Canada, Technical Report Series No. 137, Canadian Wildlife Service, Headquarters, Gatineau, Québec, Canada.
[20] Long, J.S., and Freese, J. (2006) Regression models for categorically dependent variables using Stata, Second Edition, Stata Press, Texas
[21] Burnham, K.P., and Anderson, D.R. (2004) Multimodel inference: understanding AIC and BIC in model selection, Sociological Methods and Research, 33, 261-304. doi.10.1177/0049124104268644
[22] "ecotone." Encyclop?dia Britannica, Encyclop?dia Br- itannica Online, Encyclop?dia Britannica. (2011) Web. 26 Japan 2011, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecke- d/topic/178617/ecotone.
[23] Boutin, C., Freemark, K.E. and Weseloh, D.V. (1996) Bird use of crops in southern Ontario: Implications for assessment of pesticide risk, Technical Report Series No. 264, Canadian Wildlife Service Headquarters, Hull, Quebec.
[24] Henderson, I.G., Vickery, J.A. and Fuller, R.J. (2000) Summer bird abundance and distribution on set-aside fields on intensive arable farms in England, Ecography, 23, 50-59. doi.10.1111/j.1600-0587.2000.tb00260.x
[25] Hald, A.B., and Elmegaard, N. (1988) Pesticide excl- usion strips between agricultural and non-agricultural areas in Denmark: Introduction to a Danish 3-year project in cereals, 1985-1987, Ecological Bulletin, 39, 189-190.
[26] Tew, T.E., MacDonald, D.W. and Rands, M.R.W. (1992) Herbicide application affects microhabitat use by arable wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus), Journal of Applied Ecology, 28, 906-917.
[27] Shutler, D., Mullie, A. and Clark, R.G. (2000) Bird communities of prairie uplands and wetlands in relation to farming practices in Saskatchewan, Conservation Biology, 14, 1441-1451. doi.10.1046/j.1523-1739.2000.98246.x
[28] Chamberlain, D.E., Wilson, J.D. and Fuller, R.J. (1999) A comparison of bird populations on organic and conventional farmland in southern Britain, Biological Conservation, 88, 307-320. doi.10.1016/S0006-3207(98)00124-4
[29] Kleijn, D., and Sutherland, W.J. (2003) How effective are European agri-environment schemes in conserving and promoting biodiversity? Journal of Applied Ecology, 40, 947-969. doi.10.1111/j.1365-2664.2003.00868.x
[30] Conover, R.R. (2005) Avian response to field borders in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, Thesis, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State.
[31] Smith, M.D., Barbour, P.J.Jr., Burger, L.W., Dinsmore, S.J. (2005) Density and diversity of overwintering birds in managed field borders in Mississippi, Wilson Bulletin, 117, 258-269. doi.10.1676/04-097.1
[32] Conover, R.R., Burger, L.W.Jr., and Linder, E.T. (2007) Winter avian community and sparrow response to field border width, Journal of Wildlife Management, 71, 1917-1923.
[33] Ratti, J.T. and Reese, K.P. (1988) Preliminary test of the ecological trap hypothesis, Journal of Wildlife Man- agement, 52, 484-491. doi.10.2307/3801596
[34] Paton, P.W.C. (1994) The effect of edge on avian nest success: how strong is the evidence? Conservation Biology, 8, 17-26. doi.10.1046/j.1523-1739.1994.08010017.x
[35] Vickery, P.D., Hunter, M.L.Jr., and Melvin, S.M. (1994) Effects of habitat area on the distribution of grassland birds in Maine, Conservation Biology, 8, 1087-1097. doi.10.1046/j.1523-1739.1994.08041087.x
[36] Roschewitz, I., Gabriel, D. and Tscharntke, T. (2005) The effects of landscape complexity on arable weed species diversity in organic and conventional farming, Journal of Applied Ecology, 42, 873-882. doi.10.1111/j.1365-2664.2005.01072.x
[37] Rundl?f, M., and Shmidt, H.G. (2006) The effect of organic farming on butterfly diversity depends on the landscape context, Journal of Applied Ecology, 43, 1121-1127.
[38] Woodcock, B.A., Pywell, R., Roy, D.B., Rose, R. and Bell, D. (2005) Grazing management of calcareous grasslands and its implications for the conservation of beetle communities, Biological Conservation, 125, 192- 202. doi.10.1016/j.biocon.2005.03.017
[39] Bowen, L.T., Moorman, C.E. and Kilgo, J.C. (2007) Seasonal bird use of canopy gaps in a bottomland forest, The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 119, 77-88. doi.10.1676/05-091.1
[40] Ricci, B., Franck, P., Toubon, J.F., Bouvier, J.C., Sau- phanor, B. and Lavigne, C. (2009) The influence of landscape on insect pest dynamics: a case study in southeastern France, Landscape Ecology, 24, 337-349. doi.10.1007/s10980-008-9308-6
[41] Norris, K.R. (1994) General biology Systematic and Applied Entomology: An Introduction, Melbourne Un- iversity Press, Carlton, Australia.
[42] Vickery, J.A., Tallowin, J.R., Feber, R.E., Asteraki, E.J., Atkinson, P.W., Fuller, R.J. and Brown, V.K. (2001) The management of lowland neutral grasslands in Britain: effects of agricultural practices on birds and their food resources, Journal of Applied Ecology, 38, 647-664. doi.10.1046/j.1365-2664.2001.00626.x
[43] Asher, J., Warren, M., Fox, R., Harding, P., Jeffcoate, G. and Jeffcoate, S. (2001) The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
[44] Woodcock, B.A., Potts, S.G., Pilgrim, E., Ramsay, A.J., Tscheulin, T., Parkinson, A., Smith, R.E.N., Gundrey, A.L., Brown, V.K. and Tallowin, J.R. (2007) The poten- tial of grass field margin management for enhancing beetle diversity in intensive livestock farms, Journal of Applied Ecology, 44, 60-69. doi.10.1111/j.1365-2664.2006.01258.x
[45] Aviron, S., Herzog, F., Klaus, I., Luka, H., Pfiffner, L., Schüpbach, B. and Jeanneret, P. (2007) Effects of Swiss agri-environmental measures on arthropod biodiversity in arable landscapes, Aspects of Applied Biology, 81, 101-109.
[46] Dennis, P. and Fry, G.L.A. (1992) Field margins: can they enhance natural enemy population densities and general arthropod diversity on farmland? Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 40, 95-115. doi.10.1016/0167-8809(92)90086-Q
[47] Schippers, P. and Joenje, W. (2002) Modelling the effect of fertiliser, mowing, disturbance and width on the biodiversity of plant communities of field boundaries, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 93, 351-365. doi.10.1016/S0167-8809(01)00339-5
[48] Merckx, T., Feber, R.E., Dulieu, R.L., Townsend, M.C., Parsons, M.S., Bourn, N.A.D., Riordan, P. and Macdonald, D.W. (2009) Effect of field margins on moths depends on species mobility: Field-based evidence for landscape-scale conservation, Agr- iculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 129, 302-309. doi.10.1016/j.agee.2008.10.004
[49] Robinson, W.D. and Robinson, S.K. (1999) Effects of selective logging on forest bird populations in a fra- gmented landscape, Conservation Biology, 13, 58-66. doi.10.1046/j.1523-1739.1999.97226.x
[50] Poole, A. (2005) The Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/BNA/, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY.
[51] Vickery, J.A., Feber, R.E. and Fuller, R.J. (2009) Arable field margins managed for biodiversity conservation: A review of food resource provision for farmland birds, Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment, 133, 1-13. doi.10.1016/j.agee.2009.05.012

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.