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Does organic farming benefit the diversity and abundance of breeding birds on arable land? Results from the hedge-landscape of Schleswig-Holstein



Does organic farming benefit the diversity and abundance of breeding birds on arable land? Results from the hedge-landscape of Schleswig-Holstein



Berichte ueber Landwirtschaft 85(2): 272-299



A two-year comparative study of breeding birds on conventionally and organically managed arable fields was carried out in the hedge-landscape of Schleswig-Holstein (northern Germany). Birds were recorded on 40 pairs of fields, which differed in the type of farming they were used for (organic/conventional), but were comparable in terms of other parameters known to influence the presence of bird species (area size, vertical boundary structures, relief).The bird species most strongly affected by the type of farming was the skylark (Alauda arvensis), which was significantly more abundant in the organic fields than it was in the conventional fields. The organically managed fields were characterized by the abundance of skylarks being constant during the breeding time from April to July. On the conventional fields, however, the density of skylarks decreased in the course of the first breeding period. On average over both years, pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) were more abundant on the organically managed fields. Yellow wagtails (Motacilla flava), on the other hand, were recorded as being more abundant on the conventional fields in one of the years. The type of farming did not influence the diversity of species (number of species, Shannon Index) or the number of threatened bird species.With regard to the local risk to the species named, the results suggest that agriculture based on the principles of organic farming might contribute towards protecting the populations of skylarks in comparable landscapes. Studies comparing the breeding success would be necessary in order to verify this conclusion.

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