Citation McCallum HM, Park K, O'Brien MG, Gimona A, Poggio L & Wilson J (2015) Soil pH and organic matter content add explanatory power to Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus distribution models and suggest soil amendment as a conservation measure on upland farmland. Ibis, 157 (4), pp. 677-687. https://doi.org/10.1111/ibi.12286
Abstract Habitat associations of farmland birds are well studied, yet few have considered relationships between species distribution and soil properties. Charadriiform waders (shorebirds) depend upon penetrable soils, rich in invertebrate prey. Many species, such as the Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, have undergone severe declines across Europe, despite being targeted by agri-environment measures. This study assessed whether there were additive effects of soil variables (depth, pH and organic matter content) in explaining Lapwing distribution, after controlling for known habitat relationships, at 89 farmland sites across Scotland. The addition of these soil variables and their association with elevation improved model fit by 55\%, in comparison with models containing only previously established habitat relationships. Lapwing density was greatest at sites at higher elevation, but only those with less peaty and less acidic soil. Lapwing distribution is being constrained between intensively managed lowland farmland with favourable soil conditions and upland sites where lower management intensity favours Lapwings but edaphic conditions limit their distribution. Trials of soil amendments such as liming are needed on higher elevation grassland sites to test whether they could contribute to conservation management for breeding Lapwings and other species of conservation concern that depend upon soil-dwelling invertebrates in grassland soils, such as Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata, Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris and Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus. Results from such trials could support improvement and targeting of agri-environment schemes and other conservation measures in upland grassland systems.