Agri-environment schemes have been established in many European countries to counteract the ongoing decline of farmland birds. In this study, the selection of foraging habitat by breeding skylarks was examined in relation to agri-environmental management on Dutch farmland. Field margin use was quantified and, based on the observed flight distances, the appropriateness of the current spatial arrangement of field margins in the study landscape was evaluated. Skylarks preferred field margins for foraging over all other habitat types relative to their surface area within the territories. The visiting rate of field margins decreased with increasing distance to the nest, and especially dropped markedly when the distance between the nest and a field margin exceeded 100 m. Analysis of the current spatial arrangement of field margins in the landscape suggested that the area of skylark breeding habitat within 100 m of a field margin could be increased by 46%. This was due to the placement of field margins alongside unsuitable breeding habitat and to the positioning of field margins at short distances from each other. The efficiency of agri-environmental management for skylarks can likely be improved by a more careful spatial arrangement of field margins in the landscape. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
- Agri-environment Field margin Foraging Conservation management Spatial configuration Skylark agri-environment schemes farmland birds agricultural intensification food resources ecological effectiveness population trends landscape context biodiversity management invertebrates Agriculture Environmental Sciences & Ecology