Citation McCallum HM, Wilson JD, O'Brien MG, Beaumont D, Sheldon R & Park KJ (2018) Fodder crop management benefits Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) outside agri-environment schemes. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 265, pp. 470-475. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2018.06.027
Abstract To date, agri-environment schemes (AES) have had limited success in reversing biodiversity loss over greater spatial extents than fields and farms, and vary widely in their cost-effectiveness. Here, over nine years, we make use of the management initiative of a farmer in an upland livestock farming landscape in Scotland, undertaken wholly outside AES, to examine its effect on breeding densities of Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. Management designed by the farmer involved planting a Brassica fodder crop for two consecutive years followed by reseeding with grass, with eight out of 17 fields at the farm undergoing this management since 1997. After controlling for other habitat parameters of importance, the density of breeding Lapwings was 52% higher in fields that had undergone fodder crop management than those that had not. Densities were highest in the first year after the fodder crop was planted, prior to reseeding with grass, but remained above levels in control fields for approximately seven years after the fodder crop was last planted. Very high Lapwing densities (modelled density = 1 pair ha-1) in the year after the fodder crop was planted likely result from the heterogeneous ground surface created by grazing of the crop providing an “attractive” nesting habitat. Continued high densities following reseeding with grass may partly be accounted for by philopatry, but the fact that they are field-specific also suggests that these fields continue to offer enhanced foraging conditions for several years. Fodder crop management was implemented at the study site to fatten lambs over winter and ultimately improve grass condition for grazing. This system is therefore based on active farming and benefits both the farmer and breeding Lapwings. As such, it may be possible to implement it more widely without the need for high agri-environment payments. More generally, it is an example of the land owner being actively involved in developing conservation solutions in partnership with environmental research, rather than being seen as a passive recipient of knowledge as has typically been the case with the design of AES. Such approaches need to be adopted more consistently in designing interventions for environmental outcomes on farmland, but may be of particular importance in the UK if the certainties of European Union AES are to come to an end.