Researchers found that increasing farm size led to a 15% drop in bird diversity. –ScienceDaily
A new UBC-led study on the impacts of large-scale industrial agriculture on biodiversity has found that increasing farm size leads to a decrease in bird diversity.
“Wildlife is a good indicator of a healthy agroecosystem and one thing we wanted to understand was the link between farm size and biodiversity in the surrounding areas,” says Frederik Noack, assistant professor in the food economics group. and Resources, which is part of UBC’s Lands Faculty. and food systems.
To understand this relationship, researchers investigated the impact of different agricultural indicators on local bird diversity in farmland bordering the former Iron Curtain in Germany.
Researchers found that increasing farm size led to a 15% drop in bird diversity.
Although the former inner German border lost its political implications after German reunification, farms are still five times larger on the eastern side of the border compared to the western side, a legacy of the former agricultural collectivization in East Germany. East.
Farms in East Germany have been privatized for 30 years now, but the stark differences in farm size remain along the former border. This provides an ideal setup to study the impact of farm size on biodiversity in an otherwise ecological and politically similar environment.
A diverse bird population provides natural pest control and maintenance of an overall healthy ecosystem.
“Surprisingly, we found that large farms do not damage each other, but their typical characteristics tend to harm bird diversity,” says Noack. “Larger farms tend to have larger fields and create more homogeneous landscapes with less diverse bird habitats.”
He says these results suggest that maintaining diverse habitats in the agricultural landscape plays a crucial role in conserving bird diversity.
“Providing a mix of different crop types and other land uses such as forests and grasslands in the agricultural landscape is crucial for biodiversity conservation and can mitigate the negative impact of agricultural industrialization,” said he declared.
Noack says their findings underscore the importance of analyzing agricultural change in a landscape context.
The study used a biodiversity database as well as citizen science observations, and overlaid them with satellite images of farms to establish correlations between farm size, land cover, land cover diversity and the intensity of land use.
Combining geolocated data on bird diversity from systematic bird surveys and opportunistic data from citizen science with high-resolution satellite imagery has enabled researchers to investigate the mechanisms that link farm size to biodiversity.
“The high-resolution land cover data allowed us to characterize bird habitat for each bird diversity observation, including field size, crop type, and land use intensity. Based on our results, we can then provide the information needed for policies aimed at mitigating the negative impact of agriculture and industrialization on biodiversity.
Noack argues that agri-environmental policies play an important role in aligning agricultural intensification with biodiversity conservation goals.
“Our results show that the negative impact of increasing farm size can be mitigated by maintaining land cover diversity in the agricultural landscape. In practice, this could mean encouraging riparian buffer strips, forest patches, hedgerows or agroforestry.”
Other researchers involved include Ashley Larsen, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of California, Santa Barbara; Johannes Kamp, Department of Conservation Biology, University of Göttingen, Germany; and Christian Levers, Department of Environmental Geography, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.