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Effects of an agri-environment scheme on wader populations of coastal meadows of southern Sweden

Ottvall, R., Smith, H.G.
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2006 v.113 no.1-4 pp. 264-271
water birds, wildlife management, agroecology, grasslands, coastal plains, population density, grazing, grasses, feed intake, spatial variation, population dynamics, grazing management, population size, grazing intensity, Sweden
Survey data on breeding wader densities and grazing intensity on coastal meadows on the Baltic island of Oland from 1988, 1998 and 2003 were used to evaluate density and density-changes of four common and widespread wader species, lapwing Vanellus vanellus, redshank Tringa totanus, oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus and ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula in relation to grazing intensity. Population trends over time and changes in densities in relation to changes in grazing management were evaluated. Both wader densities and the environmental variable grazing intensity demonstrated significant spatial autocorrelation, but all main results were unaffected when accounting for spatial structure in the statistical tests. Breeding densities of investigated species were positively related to grazing intensity and local changes in grazing management affected the local change in wader densities. However, average grazing intensity increased over time whereas wader numbers generally remained constant or declined. Thus, changes in grazing intensity could not explain changes in overall breeding numbers. One explanation for this is probably that grazing mainly affected distribution of birds. Some evidence of a buffer effect was found in the redshank and ringed plover, in which breeding densities declined proportionally more in non-shore than in shore habitat. This was probably due to a redistribution of birds to shore habitat. It is concluded that grazing management is essential for the occurrence of waders, but might not be sufficient to ensure long-term viability of wader populations on coastal meadows.