The impact of growing miscanthus for biomass on farmland bird populations

Bellamy, P. E.; Croxton, P. J.; Heard, M. S.; Hinsley, S. A.; Hulmes, L.; Hulmes, S.; Nuttall, P.; Pywell, R. F.; Rothery, P.. 2009 The impact of growing miscanthus for biomass on farmland bird populations. Biomass and Bioenergy, 33 (2). 191-199.

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Miscanthus is a newly introduced crop grown primarily to produce biomass for energy production and the area grown in the UK is anticipated to increase. Major differences in crop management from conventional arable crops have led to speculation that miscanthus may also have effects on farmland biodiversity. Six miscanthus fields were paired with six of a conventional crop, winter wheat, and bird diversity and abundance were compared in winter and during the breeding season along with potential food sources. Miscanthus fields had a greater abundance and diversity of birds than did wheat in winter and summer. In winter, the greater numbers of birds in miscanthus fields were probably attracted by the shelter provided by the crop and by the abundance of non-crop plants. During the breeding season, the abundance of non-crop plants in miscanthus fields, and greater numbers of insects associated with these plants, provided food resources. However, the miscanthus crop plants provided less insect food than wheat crop plants. Changes in crop structure during the breeding season influenced the breeding birds. The results from this study suggested that an increase in the area of miscanthus grown in the UK may have temporary benefits for farmland bird populations during establishment. These benefits are likely to diminish with age of crop and as crop management improves with experience. Management for wildlife will be required to maintain the diversity of features attractive to birds because many of these will be lost if miscanthus is managed solely to maximise crop yields.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biodiversity > BD01 Conservation and Restoration of Biodiversity
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pywell
ISSN: 0961-9534
Additional Keywords: Breeding season, Energy crops, Farmland birds, Invertebrates, Weeds, Winter, Food supply, Shelter
NORA Subject Terms: Botany
Agriculture and Soil Science
Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 26 Feb 2009 16:37 +0 (UTC)

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