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Effects of set-aside management on birds breeding in lowland Ireland

Bracken, F., Bolger, T.
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2006 v.117 no.2-3 pp. 178-184
agricultural land, land retirement, conservation programs, land management, wild birds, habitats, agroecosystems, environmental impact, species diversity, tillage, grasslands, crop rotation, grazing, population density, Irish Republic
Farmland birds have suffered a severe decline in recent years throughout Europe including Ireland. Agricultural intensification is believed to be the main cause and this has led to the introduction of agri-environmental schemes, of which set-aside is a part. Bird abundance and diversity were compared between set-aside and adjacent tillage or grassland at 18 locations. The set-aside sites were also assigned to one of four management types: rotational set-aside, non-rotational set-aside, first year set-aside that was productive grassland in the previous year, and long-term set-aside that was grazed by animals in winter. Species diversity and the abundances of skylark, meadow pipit and woodpigeon were significantly greater in set-aside sites. Species diversity was not significantly different between set-aside management types and meadow pipit, skylark, pheasant, house sparrow, magpie, snipe and starling were closely associated with non-rotational set-aside, which also contained significantly larger numbers of these species compared to the other set-aside types. This study shows that set-aside does enhance bird diversity and abundance and that, in Ireland, the most effective form of set-aside is non-rotational. It also shows that the most appropriate form of set-aside will vary from situation to situation and that a one size fits all view should not be taken in the development of agri-environmental schemes.