Birdwatch News Archive
Skylark numbers are increasing on Hope Farm, showing that agriculture and conservation can work together. Photo by Ben Hall (www.rspb-images.com).
Hope for farmland birdsBirdwatch news team
Posted on: 03 Aug 2012
Profitable farming doesn’t have to mean bad news for wildlife, the RSPB has said, as it reports from an arable farm in Cambridgeshire, where crop yields have stayed competitive while numbers of farmland birds have tripled – bucking a national trend, as well as a Europe-wide one.
The RSPB took over the management of Hope Farm, near Cambridge, in 2000. To celebrate the anniversary, the society has published a report looking at some of the achievements and lessons learnt from over a decade of wildlife-friendly farming.
Martin Harper, Conservation Director at the RSPB, said: “It is clear that agricultural production and environmental challenges remain inextricably linked, but Hope Farm – and other wildlife-friendly farms across the country – are proof it’s possible to boost one while addressing the other.
“By applying good farming practice underpinned by wildlife-friendly payments available to every arable farmer, we have been able to increase our Skylark population while increasing our wheat yields.”
Farmland bird numbers are falling across Britain, with a national index of 19 species of farmland species having declined by around 11 per cent across England since 2000. But at Hope Farm the same index has increased three-fold. In particular, Skylark numbers have quadrupled, rising from 10 to more than 40 territories.
This increase has largely been driven through the development of Skylark plots (small bare areas in crops) where the birds can find insect food when the crops otherwise become too dense for the birds to access. Since the early trials at Hope Farm, Skylark plots have now been adopted within the Environmental Stewardship scheme in England.
Skylark is red listed as species of conservation concern by the British Trust for Ornithology due its recent decline in breeding populations.
Ian Dillon, Hope Farm manager, said: “Through careful consideration of the quantity and positioning of habitats on the farm, we have seen an incredible increase in bird numbers. If such increases were replicated elsewhere, they would reverse many of the declines in farmland wildlife that have occurred.
“In addition to birds, other wildlife has benefited too. We have recorded 26 species of butterfly and 350 species of moth.”
The report Hope Farm: farming for food, profit and wildlife is available on the RSPB website.
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