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A bustle in the hedgerow: Woody field margins boost on farm avian diversity and abundance in an intensive agricultural landscape

Biological Conservation


Considerable funding has been allocated to conservation management of non-crop habitat in agricultural landscapes, particularly field margin habitat such as hedgerows. Evaluation of the biodiversity benefits of non crop habitat has lagged behind implementation, however, especially in the United States where this habitat has the potential to supply important resources for both common and rare species of birds. We examined the effects of woody field margin vegetation on winter and breeding season avian communities at 103 fields, row crops, and orchards in California's Central Valley, one of the most intensively-farmed landscapes on Earth. We found that margins with hedgerows, treelines or remnant riparian habitat harbored 2-3 times as many bird species, significantly greater species evenness, and 3-6 times higher maximum total abundances of birds than bare or weedy margins. The effect of margin type on richness was modulated by water year, whereas the effect of margin type on maximum total abundance was modulated by adjacent crop type. At the landscape scale, hedgerow and riparian margins that were further from woodland harbored greater species richness; a result that supports our recommendation for targeted development of hedgerows in simplified agricultural landscapes. These results demonstrate that non-crop woody habitats, both planted and remnant native patches, increase the biodiversity value of farms, providing support for policies to preserve remaining habitat and incentivize installation of woody hedgerows.

Author(s): Heath, SK; Soykan, CU; Velas, KL; Kelsey, R; Kross, SM

Journal: Biological Conservation

Year: 2017


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