Response of bird populations to farmland set-aside programs

Conserv Biol. 2009 Aug;23(4):1036-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01234.x. Epub 2009 May 12.


The role of agricultural landscapes in biodiversity conservation has been largely ignored despite their potential role in conserving declining species. Within agricultural landscapes, set-aside programs may offer the most promising conservation opportunities due to the large area involved in these programs. I explored the relationship between set-aside effect size--on the basis of data from field studies of birds in cropland and set-aside fields--and population changes following establishment of these fields. Species whose abundance was most strongly influenced by the establishment of set-aside lands also tended to show positive changes in population trends following broad-scale implementation of the set-aside program. This relationship was strongest for grassland obligate birds, a group of birds experiencing broad-scale population declines throughout North America. There is now increasing evidence that set-aside lands within the United States are providing population-level benefits to grassland birds. Nevertheless, there are also increasing concerns about the stability of these set-aside lands in the face of increased demand for crops and rising commodity prices. If set-aside area within the United States is allowed to decline, additional declines of birds and perhaps other taxa within agricultural landscapes seem likely.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Midwestern United States