Farmstead modernization adversely affects farmland birds

Martin Šálek, Martin Mayer

    Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    1. Farmland biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate and various conservation
    measures have been implemented to reverse this negative trend. Farmsteads
    within agricultural landscapes were recently identified as farmland bird hotspots,
    so we ask whether the modernization of farmsteads has substantially reduced
    their conservation potential for farmland birds.
    2. We assessed the effect of farmstead modernization on 29 farmland bird species
    in rural landscapes on 97 dairy farms across the Czech Republic, investigating
    differences in farmland bird abundance and species richness, as well as nest
    abundance of declining farmland species breeding in buildings, by comparing
    new/modernized with old and mixed farmsteads. Additionally, we investigated
    how farmstead size and environmental variables influenced avian assemblages
    on farmsteads.
    3. Farmland bird abundance was almost 3-fold lower in new/modernized farmsteads
    compared to mixed and old farmsteads (this difference was mostly driven
    by building-nesters and noncrop-nesters). Similarly, species richness was higher in old and mixed farmsteads compared to new farmsteads. Old cow sheds hosted
    more nests (both old and new nests; by a factor of 1.6–21) of house sparrows
    Passer domesticus, barn swallows Hirundo rustica and house martins Delichon urbicum compared to new cow sheds.
    4. Importantly, effects of environmental variables were negligible or smaller compared
    to the farmstead type, suggesting that bird abundance and species richness on farmsteads was primarily driven by farmstead modernization rather than the structure of surrounding farmland.
    5. Synthesis and applications. Farmstead modernization may have strong adverse
    effects on farmland bird populations due to reducing the availability of critical high-quality nesting and foraging opportunities. Modernization is largely financed from existing EU funds, which directly conflicts with EU biodiversity strategies aiming at halting biodiversity loss. We therefore recommend (i) including compensatory measures to increase nesting and foraging opportunities for birds during farmstead construction/modernization, (ii) increasing awareness of these problems among critical stakeholders and (iii) increasing support to small-sized traditional farms to retain and improve habitat conditions for declining farmland species.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
    Pages (from-to)101-110
    Number of pages10
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


    • biodiversity conservation
    • farmland bird hotspots
    • farms
    • housing renovation
    • non-farmland habitats
    • rural areas
    • sustainable development


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