Does organic farming benefit farmland birds in winter?

D. E. Chamberlain, A. Joys, P. J. Johnson, L. Norton, R. E. Feber, R. J. Fuller

Abstract

The generally higher biodiversity on organic farms may be influenced by management features such as no synthetic pesticide and fertilizer inputs and/or by differences in uncropped habitat at the site and landscape scale. We analysed bird and habitat data collected on 48 paired organic and conventional farms over two winters to determine the extent to which broad-scale habitat differences between systems could explain overall differences in farmland bird abundance. Density was significantly higher on organic farms for six out of 16 species, and none on conventional. Total abundance of all species combined was higher on organic farms in both years. Analyses using an information-theoretic approach suggested that both habitat extent and farm type were important predictors only for starling and greenfinch. Organic farming as currently practised may not provide significant benefits to those bird species that are limited by winter food resources, in particular, several declining granivores.

Footnotes

    • Received August 6, 2008.
    • Accepted August 18, 2009.
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