Quantifying the links between land use and population growth rate in a declining farmland bird.
ABSTRACT: Land use is likely to be a key driver of population dynamics of species inhabiting anthropogenic landscapes, such as farmlands. Understanding the relationships between land use and variation in population growth rates is therefore critical for the management of many farmland species. Using 24 years of data of a declining farmland bird in an integrated population model, we examined how spatiotemporal variation in land use (defined as habitats with "Short" and "Tall" ground vegetation during the breeding season) and habitat-specific demographic parameters relates to variation in population growth taking into account individual movements between habitats. We also evaluated contributions to population growth using transient life table response experiments which gives information on contribution of past variation of parameters and real-time elasticities which suggests future scenarios to change growth rates. LTRE analyses revealed a clear contribution of Short habitats to the annual variation in population growth rate that was mostly due to fledgling recruitment, whereas there was no evidence for a contribution of Tall habitats. Only 18% of the variation in population growth was explained by the modeled local demography, the remaining variation being explained by apparent immigration (i.e., the residual variation). We discuss potential biological and methodological reasons for high contributions of apparent immigration in open populations. In line with LTRE analysis, real-time elasticity analysis revealed that demographic parameters linked to Short habitats had a stronger potential to influence population growth rate than those of Tall habitats. Most particularly, an increase of the proportion of Short sites occupied by Old breeders could have a distinct positive impact on population growth. High-quality Short habitats such as grazed pastures have been declining in southern Sweden. Converting low-quality to high-quality habitats could therefore change the present negative population trend of this, and other species with similar habitat requirements.
Project description:Threats to biodiversity resulting from habitat destruction and deterioration have been documented for many species, whilst climate change is regarded as increasingly impacting upon species' distribution and abundance. However, few studies have disentangled the relative importance of these two drivers in causing recent population declines. We quantify the relative importance of both processes by modelling annual variation in population growth of 18 farmland bird species in the UK as a function of measures of land-use intensity and weather. Modelled together, both had similar explanatory power in accounting for annual fluctuations in population growth. When these models were used to retrodict population trends for each species as a function of annual variation in land-use intensity and weather combined, and separately, retrodictions incorporating land-use intensity were more closely linked to observed population trends than retrodictions based only on weather, and closely matched the UK farmland bird index from 1970 onwards. Despite more stable land-use intensity in recent years, climate change (inferred from weather trends) has not overtaken land-use intensity as the dominant driver of bird populations.
Project description:Declines in European farmland birds over past decades have been attributed to the combined effects of agricultural intensification and abandonment. Consequently, aspirations to stop declines should focus attention on reversing these changes through voluntary or policy-driven interventions. The design of such interventions should ideally be informed by scientific knowledge of which aspects of the transformation of agricultural landscapes have contributed to the farmland bird declines. Declines may be associated with loss of natural habitats or the intensification and homogenization of land use management on production land, and furthermore, these changes may interact. Here, we applied an orthogonal design exploiting spatial variation in land use in a major agricultural region of Sweden to seek evidence for benefits to farmland birds of reversing some of the intensifications on and among arable fields and whether effects are modified by the availability of seminatural habitats (pastures and field borders) in the landscape. We accounted for the potentially confounding effect of interactions between species by using a joint species distribution model explicitly controlling for additional variation and covariation among species. We found that interventions aimed specifically at land in production could provide benefits to farmland birds. Landscapes with a higher proportion leys or fallows and/or with a more diverse set of crops held higher abundances of most farmland birds. However, effects were only apparent in landscapes with low availability of seminatural habitats and were sometimes even negative in landscapes with high amounts of such habitats, demonstrating context dependence. Even if we found little evidence of interactions between species, the joint modeling approach provided several benefits. It allowed information to be shared between species making analyses robust to uncertainty due to low abundances and provided direct information about the mean and variability in effects of studied predictors among species. We also found that care needs to be taken regarding prior and distributional assumptions as the importance of species interactions might otherwise be overstated. We conclude that this approach is well suited for evaluating agricultural policies by providing evidence for or against certain interventions or to be linked to policy scenarios of land use change.
Project description:Empirical evidence from four continents indicates that human food demand may be best reconciled with biodiversity conservation through sparing natural habitats by boosting agricultural yields. This runs counter to the conservation paradigm of wildlife-friendly farming, which is influential in Europe, where many species are dependent on low-yielding high nature value farmland threatened by both intensification and abandonment. In the first multi-taxon population-level test of land-sparing theory in Europe, we quantified how population densities of 175 bird and sedge species varied with farm yield across 26 squares (each with an area of 1 km2) in eastern Poland. We discovered that, as in previous studies elsewhere, simple land sparing, with only natural habitats on spared land, markedly out-performed land sharing in its effect on region-wide projected population sizes. However, a novel 'three-compartment' land-sparing approach, in which about one-third of spared land is assigned to very low-yield agriculture and the remainder to natural habitats, resulted in least-reduced projected future populations for more species. Implementing the three-compartment model would require significant reorganization of current subsidy regimes, but would mean high-yield farming could release sufficient land for species dependent on both natural and high nature value farmland to persist.
Project description:The conversion of Earth's land surface to urban uses is one of the most irreversible human impacts on the global biosphere. It drives the loss of farmland, affects local climate, fragments habitats, and threatens biodiversity. Here we present a meta-analysis of 326 studies that have used remotely sensed images to map urban land conversion. We report a worldwide observed increase in urban land area of 58,000 km(2) from 1970 to 2000. India, China, and Africa have experienced the highest rates of urban land expansion, and the largest change in total urban extent has occurred in North America. Across all regions and for all three decades, urban land expansion rates are higher than or equal to urban population growth rates, suggesting that urban growth is becoming more expansive than compact. Annual growth in GDP per capita drives approximately half of the observed urban land expansion in China but only moderately affects urban expansion in India and Africa, where urban land expansion is driven more by urban population growth. In high income countries, rates of urban land expansion are slower and increasingly related to GDP growth. However, in North America, population growth contributes more to urban expansion than it does in Europe. Much of the observed variation in urban expansion was not captured by either population, GDP, or other variables in the model. This suggests that contemporary urban expansion is related to a variety of factors difficult to observe comprehensively at the global level, including international capital flows, the informal economy, land use policy, and generalized transport costs. Using the results from the global model, we develop forecasts for new urban land cover using SRES Scenarios. Our results show that by 2030, global urban land cover will increase between 430,000 km(2) and 12,568,000 km(2), with an estimate of 1,527,000 km(2) more likely.
Project description:Temporal variation in environmental conditions affects population growth directly via its impact on vital rates, and indirectly through induced variation in demographic structure and phenotypic trait distributions. We currently know very little about how these processes jointly mediate population responses to their environment. To address this gap, we develop a general transient life table response experiment (LTRE) which partitions the contributions to population growth arising from variation in (1) survival and reproduction, (2) demographic structure, (3) trait values and (4) climatic drivers. We apply the LTRE to a population of yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventer) to demonstrate the impact of demographic and trait-mediated processes. Our analysis provides a new perspective on demographic buffering, which may be a more subtle phenomena than is currently assumed. The new LTRE framework presents opportunities to improve our understanding of how trait variation influences population dynamics and adaptation in stochastic environments.
Project description:Across Europe, patches of un-cropped land (field margins, fallows, etc.) have been established and managed as part of agri-environment schemes (AES) to counteract the decrease in farmland biodiversity. Various studies demonstrate a positive impact of such un-cropped land on different taxa. However, there is potential to further improve the efficiency of fallow options for farmland birds. In a long-term monitoring, 12 breeding farmland bird species and sizes of perennial fallows were recorded from 1992 to 2015 in a 6.1 km2 area in Switzerland. Furthermore, habitat composition and fallow characteristics were mapped in 2012. We calculated population trends, analyzed habitat associations and revealed the impact of fallow habitat characteristics on territory density. The proportion of fallows in the study site increased from 1.4% (1992) to 8.5% (2012). Population trends of six of 12 censused species increased significantly over the same time, four species showed no trend and trends of two species decreased. Seven species were analyzed in more detail, for five of them fallows were overrepresented around their territory center points compared to arable fields and grassland. The overall territory density of these five species was higher in small fallows which were not placed next to a wood and which held bramble rubus spp., shrubs and the tall-growing forb goldenrod (Solidago canadensis and S. gigantea). Our study confirms that perennial fallows are a highly suitable option to support different farmland birds in arable landscapes. Yet, we recommend optimizing fallows through careful site selection and management, such that they are not established on shady locations and are structurally diverse by allowing brambles, shrubs, and tall-growing forbs to occur. We suggest adapting the Swiss AES in this regard. Biodiversity-related advisory services available for farmers could increase the probability that fallow options are implemented and managed properly for targeted species.
Project description:The extraordinary population growth of the 20th century will subside in the 21st century, followed by depopulation, constituting the first population decline phase in human history in Japan and other developed countries. The drivers of land-use change during the population decline phase are expected to differ from those of the population growth phase; however, research on land-use drivers during the decline phase is limited. Identifying these drivers is necessary to develop effective management plans for biodiversity and ecosystem services in the decline phase. First, we calculated the probability of farmland abandonment in Hokkaido, a Japanese food production area, from 1973-2009 and divided the period into the population growth phase (1978-1997) and the decline phase (1997-2009). We examined various geographical and social factors that were assumed to alter the land use during these two phases. Geographical and social conditions are key factors in determining the probability of farmland abandonment, but their influences varied between the two phases. The farmlands located on geographically uncultivable sites, such as marginal, underproductive, narrow, and steep land, were abandoned during these phases; however, social conditions, such as the distance from densely inhabited districts (DIDs) and the population, exerted opposite effects during these two phases. Farmland abandonment occurred near DIDs (i.e., urban areas) during the population growth phase, whereas farmland abandonment occurred far from DIDs and sparsely populated farmlands during the decline phase. Farmland abandonment was strongly affected by government policy during the population growth phase, but the policy weakened during the decline phase, which triggered farmland abandonment throughout Hokkaido. The geographical and social drivers found in the present study may provide new insights for other developed countries experiencing depopulation problems.
Project description:Reconciling the aims of feeding an ever more demanding human population and conserving biodiversity is a difficult challenge. Here, we explore potential solutions by assessing whether land sparing (farming for high yield, potentially enabling the protection of non-farmland habitat), land sharing (lower yielding farming with more biodiversity within farmland) or a mixed strategy would result in better bird conservation outcomes for a specified level of agricultural production. We surveyed forest and farmland study areas in southern Uganda, measuring the population density of 256 bird species and agricultural yield: food energy and gross income. Parametric non-linear functions relating density to yield were fitted. Species were identified as "winners" (total population size always at least as great with agriculture present as without it) or "losers" (total population sometimes or always reduced with agriculture present) for a range of targets for total agricultural production. For each target we determined whether each species would be predicted to have a higher total population with land sparing, land sharing or with any intermediate level of sparing at an intermediate yield. We found that most species were expected to have their highest total populations with land sparing, particularly loser species and species with small global range sizes. Hence, more species would benefit from high-yield farming if used as part of a strategy to reduce forest loss than from low-yield farming and land sharing, as has been found in Ghana and India in a previous study. We caution against advocacy for high-yield farming alone as a means to deliver land sparing if it is done without strong protection for natural habitats, other ecosystem services and social welfare. Instead, we suggest that conservationists explore how conservation and agricultural policies can be better integrated to deliver land sparing by, for example, combining land-use planning and agronomic support for small farmers.
Project description:Human-driven land-use changes increasingly threaten biodiversity. In agricultural ecosystems, abandonment of former farmlands constitutes a major land-use shift. We examined the relationships between areas in which agriculture has been abandoned and the distribution records of threatened plant species across Japan. We selected 23 plant species that are currently identified as threatened but were previously common in the country as indicators of threatened plant species. The areas of abandoned farmlands within the distribution ranges of the indicator species were significantly larger than the proportion of abandoned farmland area across the whole country. Also, abandoned farmland areas were positively correlated with the occurrence of indicator species. Therefore, sections of agricultural landscape that are increasingly becoming abandoned and the distribution ranges of indicator species overlapped. These results suggest that abandoned farmland areas contain degraded or preferred habitats of threatened plant species. We propose that areas experiencing increased abandonment of farmland can be divided into at least two categories: those that threaten the existence of threatened species and those that provide habitats for these threatened species.
Project description:Loss and fragmentation of natural habitats caused by human land uses have subdivided several formerly contiguous large carnivore populations into multiple small and often isolated subpopulations, which can reduce genetic variation and lead to precipitous population declines. Substantial habitat loss and fragmentation from urban development and agriculture expansion relegated the Highlands-Glades subpopulation (HGS) of Florida, USA, black bears (Ursus americanus floridanus) to prolonged isolation; increasing human land development is projected to cause ? 50% loss of remaining natural habitats occupied by the HGS in coming decades. We conducted a noninvasive genetic spatial capture-recapture study to quantitatively describe the degree of contemporary habitat fragmentation and investigate the consequences of habitat fragmentation on population density and genetics of the HGS. Remaining natural habitats sustaining the HGS were significantly more fragmented and patchier than those supporting Florida's largest black bear subpopulation. Genetic diversity was low (AR = 3.57; HE = 0.49) and effective population size was small (NE = 25 bears), both of which remained unchanged over a period spanning one bear generation despite evidence of some immigration. Subpopulation density (0.054 bear/km2) was among the lowest reported for black bears, was significantly female-biased, and corresponded to a subpopulation size of 98 bears in available habitat. Conserving remaining natural habitats in the area occupied by the small, genetically depauperate HGS, possibly through conservation easements and government land acquisition, is likely the most important immediate step to ensuring continued persistence of bears in this area. Our study also provides evidence that preferentially placing detectors (e.g., hair traps or cameras) primarily in quality habitat across fragmented landscapes poses a challenge to estimating density-habitat covariate relationships using spatial capture-recapture models. Because habitat fragmentation and loss are likely to increase in severity globally, further investigation of the influence of habitat fragmentation and detector placement on estimation of this relationship is warranted.