An index of upland wildlife habitat was developed to investigate patterns and changes in habitat over time, using four years (1920, 1940, 1964, 1987) and the state of Illinois as an example. The index was composed of two subdivisions that described, at the county level, the quantity of wildlife habitat and a third subdivision that described farming disturbances that impacted the quality of the habitat. Data came from the US Census of Agriculture. The first subdivision that reflected quantity of habitat was called the wildlife habitat subdivision and was the sum of percentage woodland on farms, percentage farmland in nonrow crops, and percentage farmland in set-aside programs. The second subdivision that reflected the quantity of habitat was termed the soil-related features subdivision and was the sum of the percentage of farmland that was not highly erodible, the percentage of farmland in soil-protecting crops, and the percentage of farmland in conservation tillage. The third subdivision, reflecting the quality of the habitat, was the farming disturbance subdivision and was the sum of the percentage of grazing and the percentage of land on which fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides were applied. Overall, major decreases occurred between 1920 and 1987 in the subdivisions reflecting the quantity of wildlife habitat and a major increase occurred in the subdivision associated with farming disturbance, reflecting the intensification of agriculture in the state. However, there was variability throughout the state, with some counties being more favorable to wildlife (as measured by the subdivisions) than others. Most of the changes within the state for the subdivisions reflecting quantity of upland wildlife habitat occurred during 1940 while changes in the farming disturbance subdivision (reflecting habitat quality) occurred in 1964. By 1987, the western and southern parts of Illinois were the most favorable for wildlife as reflected in all three subdivisions. Upland wildlife harvest indices were related to the subdivisions in 1964 and 1987, when harvest indices were available. Cottontail and northern bobwhite harvests were higher in counties with higher amounts of the wildlife habitat subdivision in both years. Cottontail harvest was also higher in counties with lower levels of the farming disturbance subdivision in 1964 and higher levels of soil-related features subdivision in 1987. Indices at the county level have the potential to be used in a multiscale analysis to investigate the impact of policy changes on large- scale areas of the Midwest and to develop regional perspectives of the impacts of agriculture on upland wildlife and their habitats.
Additional publication details
Changes in upland wildlife habitat on farmland in Illinois 1920-1987