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The effect of 'mosaic management' on the demography of black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa on farmland
- Schekkerman, Hans, Teunissen, Wolf, Oosterveld, Ernst
- Journal of applied ecology 2008 v.45 no.4 pp. 1067-1075
- agricultural land, grasslands, wild birds, nesting, animal reproduction, mortality, wildlife management, wildlife habitats, mowing, Netherlands
- 1. Like many farmland birds, the largest European population of the black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa, in The Netherlands, has been declining for decades despite conservation measures including agri-environment schemes (AES). In a new experimental AES aiming to reverse this decline, collectives of farmers implemented spatially coordinated site-level habitat management ('mosaic management') including delayed and staggered mowing of fields, refuge strips and active nest protection. 2. We evaluated the effectiveness of mosaic management by measuring godwit breeding success in six experimental sites and paired controls. Productivity was higher in mosaics than in controls due to fewer agricultural nest losses. Chick fledging success was poor in both treatments. Productivity compensated for adult mortality in only one AES site. 3. Although creating chick habitat was a major management goal, the availability of tall grass during the fledging period did not differ between treatments, mainly because rainfall delayed mowing in all sites and study years. However, chick survival increased with the availability of tall grass among sites. Higher chick survival will thus enhance the positive effect of mosaic management in drier years, but sensitivity to weather represents a weakness of the AES design. 4. Available estimates of productivity in Dutch godwits suggest a strong reduction over the past 20 years and implicate chick survival as the main driver of their decline. Earlier mowing of grassland is the main causal mechanism, but changes in vegetation structure and composition, and increased predation may also have contributed. 5. Synthesis and applications. Demographic rates like breeding success are useful parameters for evaluating effects of management. Mosaic management increases the productivity of black-tailed godwits, but does not ensure long-term population viability for this flagship species of wet grassland bird communities. More stringent management prescriptions need to improve both the area and the quality (vegetation structure) of grassland mown late. Management efforts should be concentrated in areas with favourable pre-conditions in order to improve overall effectiveness.