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A new role for pond management in farmland bird conservation

Davies, SR; Sayer, CD; Greaves, H; Siriwardena, GM; Axmacher, JC; (2016) A new role for pond management in farmland bird conservation. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment , 233 pp. 179-191. 10.1016/j.agee.2016.09.005. Green open access

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Biodiversity declines in agricultural landscapes represent a major conservation challenge. In the UK, some agricultural landscapes contain high pond densities, but many farmland ponds have become terrestrialised since the 1960s, with input of organic material resulting in a decrease in the size and depth of ponds that eventually transform into wet woodland habitats. Pond management, including removal of overhanging scrub and sediment, has proven highly effective in enhancing freshwater biodiversity. However, the implications of this management for farmland bird assemblages are unknown. Bird surveys were undertaken at recently managed, open, macrophyte-dominated and at highly terrestrialised, macrophyte-free ponds in the intensively cultivated farmland of North Norfolk, UK. The diversity, abundance and composition of bird assemblages visiting these ponds were compared to determine responses to pond management by tree and mud removal. Avian species richness, abundance and bird-visit frequencies were all higher at open farmland ponds. The observed patterns of bird occurrence were best explained by management-induced reductions in tree shading that resulted in aquatic macrophyte-dominance likely associated with high emergent invertebrate prey abundance. Moreover, we predict that open-canopy ponds offer greater habitat heterogeneity than overgrown ponds, allowing diversified bird use. Overgrown, terrestrialised ponds were preferred by some woodland bird species. Gamma diversity across the entire pondscape exceeded all individual pond alpha diversity measures by an order of magnitude, suggesting distinct variation in the bird assemblages visiting farmland ponds during different successional stages. Pond management that generates a mosaic of pond successional stages, including open-canopy, macrophyte-dominated ponds, could help to address the long-term decline of farmland birds. We strongly advocate increased agro-ecological research in this field, combined with greater emphasis on ponds and pond management options in agri-environment schemes.

Type: Article
Title: A new role for pond management in farmland bird conservation
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2016.09.005
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2016.09.005
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Keywords: Agri-environment schemes; Agro-ecosystems; Avian diversity; Biodiversity decline; Farmland pondscapes; Habitat heterogeneity
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1515893
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