At the end of the 1980s, the former USSR went through major economic and political changes. Sweeping reorganisation of the Russian agriculture resulted in widespread land abandonment and development of secondary forest. Here we report on this old field succession in northern European Russia where the majority of Corncrakes breed. After selecting sites through remote sensing, we ground-truthed 96 sites by collecting data on vegetation cover and composition. Combined with our knowledge of the local economy, we identified five stages of old field devel-opment from early abandonment to young forest. We recorded 22 calling Corncrakes in these abandoned fields, where total area under cultivation dropped below 50 % and number of cattle dropped below 25 % of their original 1990 levels. In contrast to early concerns about intensifi-cation of Russian agriculture and their negative effects on Corncrakes, our research discloses the opposite. Downscaling of agriculture and land abandonment lead to development of more abandoned fields which resulted in more potential habitat for breeding Corncrakes. We advise to address abandoned field succession in the breeding area when designing new bird surveys in Russia and other East European countries.
|Publication status||Published - 2016|