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Specialist response to proportion of arable land and pesticide input in agricultural landscapes

Filippi-Codaccioni, Ondine, Devictor, Vincent, Bas, Yves, Clobert, Jean, Julliard, Romain
Biological conservation 2010 v.143 no.4 pp. 883-890
intensive farming, wild birds, pesticides, environmental impact, population density, agricultural land, landscape ecology, wildlife habitats, France
Increases in farming practice intensity and landscape simplification are two well-known threats for many farmland bird species. Nevertheless, the effects of these two factors may differ strongly among species. Here, we propose to use the specialist-generalist concept to assess which bird species are most affected by these two factors. Bird density and intensity of farming practices were assessed within a sample of 58 farms across the Seine-et-Marne region in France, using point counts and a standardised farmer survey. The local abundance of 41 farmland and non-farmland species was related to farming intensity (pesticide applications) and landscape simplification (proportion of arable land), which was quantified using generalised least square models to account for spatial autocorrelation. The more specialised the farmland and non-farmland birds were, the more negatively affected they were by the intensity of farming practices, relative to the generalist bird species. Local habitat simplification had a more positive effect on abundance of the most specialist farmland bird species. This latter relationship was not significant when tested at a landscape scale, which strongly suggests that the sensitivity of farmland specialists to landscape simplification is scale-dependent. Some non-farmland species' abundance was also reduced by farming intensity and local landscape simplification suggesting that low-input agri-environmental measures could benefit both farmland and non-farmland specialists, regardless of local and landscape habitat context. However, if diversity-enhancing measures should benefit non-farmland populations, it is likely that they do not favour farmland specialist species which are more at risk. We suggest designing of priority areas for farmland specialist birds, and landscape managing accordingly.