Agricultural landscapes: Can they support healthy bird populations as well as farm products?

The Auk



At the beginning of the twentieth century, prospects for bird populations occupying farmlands were promising. Agricultural expansion and the resulting deforestation produced wholesale changes to the landscape of eastern North America (Trautman 1977, Zeranski and Baptist 1990, Nicholson 1997). Regional avifaunas were transformed as Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris), Dickcissels (Spiza americana), and other farmland birds undertook range expansions (Hurley and Franks 1976, Askins 1999). Those farmland birds became conspicuous, frequently in numbers that are hard to imagine today (Trautman 1940).

One hundred years later, many of those once plentiful species experienced dramatic population declines (Askins 1993, Peterjohn and Sauer 1999). Those trends were evident for many decades, although pre-1965 trends were largely based on anecdotal accounts and were frequently attributed to changing regional landscapes due to urban expansion, farm abandonment resulting in increased forest cover, and the more intensive use of remaining agricultural fields (Trautman 1940, Herkert 1991, Askins 2000). However, numerous specific factors were implicated in local declines of individual species (Kantrud 1981, Bollinger et al. 1990, Lymn and Temple 1991, Bowen and Kruse 1993, Herkert 1994, Houston and Schmutz 1999, Blackwell and Dolbeer 2001).

Understanding factors responsible for population changes can be approached at various geographic scales. Local studies identify specific factors influencing small populations, but the applicability of those results across broad geographic areas is often uncertain. Studies conducted at large geographic scales identify broad patterns of change, but those patterns frequently involve interrelated factors that may be only loosely related to the actual causes of population change. However, correlations between broad patterns of changes in bird populations and land-use characteristics provide a basis for directing future studies conducted at smaller geographic scales.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Agricultural landscapes: Can they support healthy bird populations as well as farm products?
Series title The Auk
DOI 10.1093/auk/120.1.14
Volume 120
Issue 1
Year Published 2003
Language English
Publisher American Ornithological Society
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 6 p.
First page 14
Last page 19
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