Habitat loss is a major reason for the decline of grassland birds in North America. Five habitats (pastures, hayfields, rowcrop fields, small-grain fields, Conservation Reserve Program fields) compose most of the habitat used by grassland birds in the Midwest United States. Growing and harvesting switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) as a biomass fuel would create another habitat for grassland birds. Bird abundance information from studies conducted in Iowa and adjacent states and land-use data for the Rathbun Lake Watershed in southern Iowa were used in a Geographic Information System to model the potential effects on bird abundances of converting rowcrop fields to biomass production. Abundances of bird species that are management priorities increased in both biomass scenarios. Common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) abundance in the watershed also increased greatly in both scenarios. Other species (e.g., homed lark [Eremophila alpestris], killdeer [Charadrius vociferous]) were more abundant in the existing land use than in the biomass scenarios, and conversion of fields from rowcrop to biomass production could be detrimental to these species. In general, biomass fields will provide habitat for grassland birds that are management priorities, but future monitoring of birds in such fields is needed as conversion of rowcrop fields to biomass production continues. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Potential effects on grassland birds of converting marginal cropland to switchgrass biomass production