Conservation of farmland birds faces different challenges in Western and Central-Eastern Europe
Birds are commonly used as an example of the strongly declining farmland biodiversity in Europe. The populations of many species have been shown to suffer from intensification of management, reduction of landscape heterogeneity, and habitat loss and fragmentation. These conditions particularly dominate farmland in the economically well developed countries of Western Europe. Currently, the farmland environment in Central-Eastern Europe is generally more extensive than in Western Europe and a larger proportion of people still live in rural areas; thus generating different conditions for birds living in agricultural areas. Furthermore, the quasi-subsistence farming in much of Central-Eastern Europe has resulted in agricultural landscapes that are generally more complex than those in Western Europe. To protect declining bird populations living in farmland, detailed knowledge on both species and communities is necessary. However, due to scientific tradition and availability of funding, the majority of studies have been carried out in Western Europe. In consequence this provokes a question: are findings obtained in western conditions useful to identify the fate of farmland bird biodiversity in Central-Eastern Europe? Therefore, the major goal of this paper is to highlight some local and regional differences in biodiversity patterns within EU farmland by comparing intensive agricultural landscapes with more extensive ones. More specifically, we aim to outline differences in agricultural landscapes and land use history in the two regions, use farmland birds to provide examples of the differences in species dynamics and species-habitat interactions between the two regions, and discuss possible social and ecological drivers of the differences in the context of biodiversity conservation. Factors governing spatio-temporal dynamics of farmland bird populations may differ in intensive and extensive landscapes as illustrated here using the Grey Partridge Perdix perdix and the Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio as examples. The unevenness of farmland bird studies distribution across Europe was also presented. We call for more emphasis on pluralism in furthering both pan-European research on farmland bird ecology and conservation strategies. We also highlight some features specific to Central-Eastern Europe that merit consideration for the more efficient conservation of farmland birds and farmland biodiversity across Europe.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 June 2011