Concentrating or scattering management in agricultural landscapes: Examining the effectiveness and efficiency of conservation measures

Martijn Hammers*, Gerard J.D.M. Müskens, Ruud J.M. van Kats, Wolf A. Teunissen, David Kleijn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


A key issue in conservation is where and how much management should be implemented to obtain optimal biodiversity benefits. Cost-effective conservation requires knowledge on whether biodiversity benefits are higher when management is concentrated in a few core areas or scattered across the landscape, and how these effects vary between species. To address these questions, we examined species-specific behavioural responses of over-wintering farmland birds to enhanced seed availability. In a two-year experiment we first examined the relationship between landscape-scale seed availability and farmland bird density. Then we investigated the relative resource delivery (difference in bird densities between landscapes with and without additional management) and the efficiency (number of individuals supported per unit management) of conservation actions, both at the landscape-scale (ca 100 ha) and at the scale of the conservation measures (3.6 ha). The conservation actions were targeted towards ten seed-eating farmland bird species, but we also considered the responses of seven non-targeted and more generalist seed-eating species, seven species that are less dependent on seeds and three species of birds of prey. We found a positive relationship between bird density and landscape-scale seed availability for eleven species and, for four of these species, the slope of this relationship changed before and after a threshold seed density. For two seed-eating specialists, the number of individuals using conservation patches declined with landscape-scale seed availability. In addition, we found that the relative resource delivery declined with landscape scale seed availability for three seed-eating specialists and was independent of landscape-scale seed availability in four other species. Our results suggest that farmland specialists may benefit most from winter food additions if conservation actions result in high landscape-scale seed availability. This may be achieved by concentrating conservation measures or by establishing measures in areas with high baseline seed availability. By contrast, species that can utilize a wider range of habitats and resources may benefit more from scattering measures across larger areas. Therefore, optimal management for the full range of farmland birds in wintertime may require a combination of core areas with concentrated management and more widely distributed smaller patches of conservation measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-60
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Conservation management
  • Farmland biodiversity
  • Seed-eating farmland birds
  • Species-specific responses
  • Wild bird seed mixtures
  • Winter food availability


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