Promoting farmland species in high-intensity agricultural areas: from occurrence data to landscape management

DIKO - Density and spatial coherence of landscape elements in agricaltural landscapes of Saxony

Project leader:PD Dr. Klaus Henle

Coordination: Dipl. Ing. Mathias Scholz, Dr. Carsten Dormann

Project staff: Dr. Pedro J. Leitao, Dipl. Ing. Sarah Effertz, Dr. Bernd Gruber, Dipl. Ing. Alica Tschierschke

Funding: Sächsisches Landesamt für Umwelt, Landwirtschaft und Geologie - LfULG

Project duration: July 2008 - November 2009

Aims of the project:

  • Support the formulation of management targets for land patches of the „Normallandschaft“ (Farmland landscape) in Saxony
  • Deduct measures of landscape structure relevant to the species habitat requirements


Farmland bird population declines have been widely reported over the last 30 years. While agriculture intensification was identified as the primary cause of such declines, economic pressures demand ever increasing crop yields. Indeed, fulfilling concurrent economic and natural requirements constitute perhaps the greatest management challenge towards sustainability. This study thus concentrates on five high-intensity agricultural areas in Saxony and aims at identifying manageable landscape features that satisfy the habitat requirements and therefore promote the occurrence of six farmland bird species. To this aim we applied Boosted Regression Tree models at the state level, using species occurrence and environmental data provided by the Saxon State Ministry of the Environment and Agriculture. The variables that mostly contributed to the models and that can be influenced by landscape management were identified, for further processing. This was followed by a response curve analysis conducted separately for each of the five focal areas, to generate site and species-specific management impact measures. These can potentially be used to promote species occurrence in these intensively used agricultural areas, while maintaining high production yields. Our study thus contributes to further understand landscape management impacts on biodiversity in intensively used regions and this way contribute to biodiversity conservation in landscapes primarily dedicated to agricultural production.