European farmland bird populations have decreased dramatically in recent decades and agricultural intensification has been identified as the main cause contributing to these declines. Identifying which specific intensification pressures are driving those population trends seems vital for bird conservation in European farmland. We investigated the response of ground-nesting farmland birds to the multivariate process of agricultural intensification in six European countries covering a bio-geographical and intensification gradient. Supported by PCA analysis, two groups of factors, related to field management and landscape modification, were considered, seeking to discriminate the relative importance of the effects of these main intensification components. Variance partition analysis showed that landscape factors accounted for most of the variation of ground-nesting farmland bird individual and breeding pair densities, as well as Skylark (i.e. our single model species) individual densities. In the case of Skylark breeders, field factors were found to be more important to explain their density. Our results suggest that in general farmland bird densities as well as Skylark densities are higher in simple landscapes dominated by agriculture, but with smaller fields and more different crops on the farms. In addition, high yields were negatively related to bird densities. We conclude that while management actions aimed at farmland bird conservation taken at landscape level may exert a strong positive effect on overall bird densities, those taken at field level are also relevant, particularly for breeders and, therefore, may potentially influence the persistence of these species’ populations.
- Breeding territories
- Winter cereals