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Bird Communities of Prairie Uplands and Wetlands in Relation to Farming Practices in Saskatchewan

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Modern farm practices can vary in their emphasis on tillage versus chemicals to control weeds, and researchers know little about which emphasis has greater ecological benefits. We compared avifaunas of uplands and wetlands in four treatments: conventional farms, conservation farms (contrasting those that minimized frequency of tillage [minimum tillage] with those that eliminated chemical inputs [organic]), and restored or natural (wild) sites in Saskatchewan, Canada. Of 37 different upland bird species encountered during surveys, one made greater use of farms, four made greater use of wild sites, and the remaining species showed no preference. When all upland species were combined, higher relative abundance occurred on wild than on farm sites, and on minimum tillage than on conventional farms. Wild upland sites also had more species than did conventional farms. Of 79 different species encountered during surveys of wetlands and their margins, most had similar encounter probabilities among treatments, although seven were more common on either organic farms or wild sites. Higher relative abundances were documented in wetland habitat of wild sites and organic farms than of minimum tillage or conventional farms. Wetlands of wild sites had more species than did minimum tillage or conventional farms. Overall, in terms of both avifaunal density and diversity, small treatment effects could be ascribed to differences between conventional and conservation farms, whereas larger effects were due to differences between farms and wild sites. Wetlands were heavily used by birds in all treatments, suggesting high conservation priority regardless of context.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Canadian Wildlife Service , 115 Perimeter Road, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 0X4, Canada

Publication date: October 1, 2000

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